INTERNAL AID OF INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE

This Article is written by Hitakshi Maggo from Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology

Internal aid means a medium to interpret the Statute internally. These are the important aspects of the Statute which aid to interpretation of the same.  Every enactment has its title, preamble, heading, clauses, etc. it means internal aid to interpretation. The various types of internal aids are as follows:

  1. Long title and Short title
  2. Preamble
  3. Heading and title of chapter
  4. Marginal notes
  5. Definition clause/Interpretational clause
  6. Proviso
  7. Explanation
  8. Schedules
  9. Read the Statute as a whole

They are explained in detailed manner below:

LONG TITLE AND SHORT TITLE

Every Act would begin with a Short title or a Long title. Short title only identifies the name of the Act like the Companies Act, etc. it is merely used for convenience purposes to shortly identify the Act. On the other hand, Long title describes the Act rather than only identifying the name of the Act like for example, Long title describes the purpose of the Act, we can refer to it to ascertain the object and it is also a part of the Act.

Therefore, if you want to know the purpose of the Act you can refer to the Long title of the Act. For example, Supreme Court Advocates (Practice) Act, 1951, this is a Short title and under this practice refers to the right that an SC advocate has the right to practice in High Court and you can only understand this through Long title or in other words this right is consider as Long title of Supreme Court Advocate (Practice) Act, 1951. Long title is a part of an Act but it can not override the plain meaning of the Act.

PREAMBLE

As we know it expresses the scope, object and purpose of the Act more comprehensively than the Long title. We read above that the long title describes the purpose of the Act but Preamble describes or expresses the grounds and cause in detail of making a Statute or Act. It defines why this Act was enforced or said came in force and for the evil which is sought to be remedied by it.

Basically, it is made for the purpose to know that; what is the cause to make this Act and what are the grounds of making it, for example, Parliament enacted the Benami Property Act (Short title), properties which are not registered and to know their real owner is the purpose of this Act (Long title), there are many properties in India which does not have the proper stamp duty or say there are no proper papers of that property and to overcome this problem this Act was enacted (Preamble). In short, when the wordings of the Act has more than one meaning or give rise to a doubts then we refer to the Preamble; where Preamble discloses or shows us the primary intention or cause of the Act but we can only use Preamble when the language of the Statutes is not clear and Preamble does not override the provisions of the Act. For example, Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which describes that hindu marriage can be solemnized among 2 Hindus.

In the case of Kashi Prasad v. State, the Court held that the Preamble can be treated as the key for interpretation of the Statute.

HEADING AND TITLE OF A CHAPTER

There are different Sections of a common subject under the Act and the Sections are grouped together in the form of chapters prefixed by headings or titles. There are different opinions of headings and titles, heading/title is a key to interpret the clauses under it, if the words of Sections or clauses are not clear and their meanings are in doubt then the heading or title can be referred to construct or to clear the doubtful expression. Heading of one group of Sections can not be used to interpret the other group of Sections. For example, under Chapter 36 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Limitation for taking cognizance of certain offences) have different Sections which after reading states, the limitations only for filing of complaints or for initiation of prosecutions not for cognizance of offences.

In the case of R. Krishnaiah v. State Of A.P., it was held that, only in the case of ambiguity or doubt, headings or subheadings may be referred as an aid in interpreting the provision.

MARGINAL NOTES

Based on many case laws, marginal notes are added to the Sections; you cannot use them for constructing interpretation. Marginal notes in an Indian Statute cannot be referred for the purpose of interpretation of Statute and it may be permissible in exceptional cases for interpreting the Sections of the Statute. Hence, marginal notes can be added to Sections but can’t be used for interpretation except exceptional cases.

DEFINITION CLAUSES / INTERPRETATION CLAUSES

Any legislative authority has power to add definitions in the Statute of its language and it is common to find definitions of certain words under the definition clause which are used under the body of the Statute. It is usually mentioned under Section 2 of the Act. When a word or phrase defines a particular meaning in the Act, then it is that meaning alone which must be given to it in interpreting a Section of the Act or in simple words you have to refer to that particular meaning to interpret the Section of the Act; unless there be anything repugnant in the context. The Court cannot ignore the statutory definition of the Act and can not try any other meaning and should consider that meaning to be true.

For interpretation of definition, you have to consider three headings or ways, as follows,

  1. Restrictive and Extensive definition – Where restrictive definition restrict the meaning of the word; if there is a word “mean” used then this is restrictive and if there is a word “include” used then the word which is defined is not restricted to the meaning assigned to it and are called extensive definition, there are some definitions where both words “mean” and “include” used then the definition would be exhaustive, for example, under Consumer Protection Act, 2019, the definition of person is extensive due to the word “include” that’s why company is also included under the word person.
  2. Ambiguous Definition – Here ambiguous means unclear, so it may have to be interpreted in the light of the other provisions of the Act, it must be read in the context of the phrase which it defines rather be read in isolation realizing that the function of the definition is to give meaning to a word or phrase but not to contradict it.
  3. Definition subject to a contrary context – When a word is defined to bear a number of inclusive meanings then the sense of using so many words must be ascertained from the context of the scheme of the Act, language of the provision and the object intended to be served thereby.

PROVISO

Proviso is used to accept something or to describe the exceptions of the Act or to qualify something stated in the enactment. Ordinary proviso is not interpreted as stating a general rule means it doesn’t state the general rule, for that purpose there is main Section, it is only embracing or except the field which is covered by the main provision and when a proviso is made for a  Section, then it provides for that Section and not any other Section of the Act.

There is a difference between exceptions, proviso and saving clause. Exception is made to restrain the enacting clause in particular cases, on the other hand Proviso is used to remove the special cases from general enactment it not only removes something it also qualifies or say provide something specially to that case and Saving Clause is used to preserve or save the rights, remedies or privileges already given under the Section or already existing under the Act.

EXPLANATION

It basically adds a Section for explaining the text of the Section, in other words an explanation is added to a Section to give meaning to the text of the same. It is added to include or add something within the Section or to subtract something from the Section; it connects extra meaning to the Section. In case of any doubt in the meaning of the Section, then explanation is used to understand the meaning in the main Section. But it can not be used to construct the ambit of the Section or convey different meanings. Objective of the explanation is to explain and clarify the obscurity in the Section to make it consistent with the other provisions of the Act. It is an additional support to the object of the Act to make it meaningful and it helps in filling up the gap which suppresses mischief and advances the object of the Act.

SCHEDULES

Schedule is a part of an Act or the part of Statute and you have to follow the same. They must be read together with the Act for the interpretation of the Statute. Expressions in the schedule cannot control or prevail the enactment or if there is any inconsistency present between the schedule and the Act, then Act shall always be considered or say shall always prevail. They contain figures/ details or forms for working out the policy of the Sections of the Statute, for example, some schedules were added to the Companies Act, 2013.

READ THE STATUTE AS A WHOLE

It is the elementary principle that interpretation of the Statute is to be made all together. For example, deeds are read as whole to ascertain the true meaning of its several clauses and to make harmony with other provisions, the words of each clause should be interpreted together if that interpretation does not violate the meaning of which they are naturally susceptible and the same should apply with regards to the Acts and Rules passed by the legislature.

In the case of C. Ram Prakash v. Power Grid Corporation Of India, under para 15 of the judgment it is stated that, in order to understand the provisions contained in the Statute, one has to read the entire Statute as a whole.

REFERENCES

  1. Aparichit Tyagi, Interpretation Of Statutes, Singhal’s Law Publications (2019)
  2. C. Ram Prakash v. Power Grid Corporation Of India, August 23, 2007
  3. Kashi Prasad v. State, AIR 1950 ALL 732
  4. R. Krishnaiah v. State Of A.P., Air 2005 Ap 10, 2004 (2) Ald 794, 2004 (2) Alt 730