Wednesday, 20 January 2016

External aids to construction of statutes

External aids to construction of statutes
When internal aids are not adequate, court has to take recourse to External aids. External Aids may be parliamentary material, historical background, reports of a committee or a commission, official statement, dictionary meanings, foreign decisions, etc.
B. Prabhakar Rao and others v State of A.P. and others, AIR 1986 SC 120  [1] O.Chennappa, Reddy J. has observed : “Where internal aids are not forthcoming, we can always have recourse to external aids to discover the object of the legislation. External aids are not ruled out. This is now a well settled principle of modern statutory construction.” (para 7)
District Mining Officer and others v Tata Iron & Steel Co. and another, (2001) 7 SCC 358 [2] Supreme Court has observed: “It is also a cardinal principle of construction that external aids are brought in by widening the concept of context as including not only other enacting provisions of the same statute, but its preamble, the existing state of law, other statutes in pari materia and the mischief which the statute was intended to remedy.” (para 18)
K.P. Varghese v Income Tax Officer Ernakulam, AIR 1981 SC 1922 [3] The Supreme Court has stated that interpretation of statute being an exercise in the ascertainment of meaning, everything which is logically relevant should be admissible.
When internal aids are not adequate, court has to take recourse to external aids.The external aids are very useful tools for the interpretation or construction of statutory provisions. As opposed to internal aids to construction there are certain aids which are external to the statute. Such aids will include parliamentary history of the legislation, historical facts and surrounding circumstances in which the statute came to be enacted, reference to other statutes, use of dictionaries, use of foreign decisions, etc.
Some of the external aids used in the interpretation of statutes are as follows:

a. Parliamentary History, Historical Facts and Surrounding Circumstances
Historical setting cannot be used as an aid if the words are plain and clear. If the wordings are ambiguous, the historical setting may be considered in order to arrive at the proper construction. Historical setting covers parliamentary history, historical facts, statement of objects and reasons, report of expert committees.

Parliamentary history means the process by which an act is enacted. This includes conception of an idea,
drafting of the bill, the debates made, the amendments proposed etc. Speech made in mover of the bill, amendments considered during the progress of the bill are considered in parliamentary history where as the papers placed before the cabinet which took the decision for the introduction of the bill are not relevant since these papers are not placed before the parliament. The historical facts of the statute that is the external
circumstances in which it was enacted in should also be taken into note so that it can be understood that the statute in question was intended to alter the law or leave it where it stood. Statement of objective and reasons as to why the statute is being brought to enactment can also be a very helpful fact in the research for historical facts, but the same if done after extensive amendments in statute it may be unsafe to attach these with the statute in the end. It is better to use the report of a committee before presenting it in front of the legislature as they guide us with a legislative intent and place their recommendations which come in handy while enactment of the bill.
The Supreme Court in a numbers of cases referred to debates in the Constituent Assembly for interpretation of Constitutional provisions. Recently, the Supreme Court in S.R. Chaudhuri v State of Punjab and others, (2001) 7 SCC 126 [4] has stated that it is a settled position that debates in the Constituent Assembly may be relied upon as an aid to interpret a Constitutional provision because it is the function of the Court to find out the intention of the framers of the Constitution. (Para 33)
But as far as speeches in Parliament are concerned, a distinction is made between speeches of the mover of the Bill and speeches of other Members. Regarding speeches made by the Members of the Parliament at the time of consideration of a Bill, it has been held that they are not admissible as extrinsic aids to the interpretation of the statutory provision. However, speeches made by the mover of the Bill or Minister may be referred to for the purpose of finding out the object intended to be achieved by the Bill.
(K.S. Paripoornan v State of Kerala and others, AIR 1995 SC 1012) [5]
So far as Statement of Objects and Reasons, accompanying a legislative bill is concerned, it is permissible to refer to it for understanding the background, the antecedent state of affairs, the surrounding circumstances in relation to the statute and the evil which the statute sought to remedy. But, it cannot be used to ascertain the true meaning and effect of the substantive provision of the statute. (Devadoss (dead) by L. Rs, v. Veera Makali Amman Koil Athalur, AIR 1998 SC 750) [6]
Reports of Commissions including Law Commission or Committees including Parliamentary Committees preceding the introduction of a Bill can also be referred to in the Court as evidence of historical facts or of surrounding circumstances or of mischief or evil intended to be remedied. Law Commission’s Reports can also be referred to where a particular enactment or amendment is the result of recommendations of Law
Commission Report. The Supreme Court in Rosy and another v State of Kerala and others, (2000) 2 SCC 230 [7] considered Law Commission of India, 41st Report for interpretation of section 200 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

b. Social, Political and Economic Developments and Scientific Inventions
A Statute must be interpreted to include circumstances or situations which were unknown or did not exist at the time of enactment of the statute. Any relevant changes in the social conditions and technology should be given due weightage. Courts should take into account all these developments while construing statutory provisions.
In S.P. Gupta v Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 149, [8] it was stated - “The interpretation of every statutory provision must keep pace with changing concepts and values and it must, to the extent to which its language permits or rather does not prohibit, suffer adjustments through judicial interpretation so as to accord with the requirement of the fast changing society which is undergoing rapid social and economic transformation …
It is elementary that law does not operate in a vacuum. It is, therefore, intended to serve a social purpose and it cannot be interpreted without taking into account the social, economic and political setting in which it is intended to operate. It is here that the Judge is called upon to perform a creative function. He has to inject flesh and blood in the dry skeleton provided by the legislature and by a process of dynamic interpretation, invest it with a meaning which will harmonise the law with the prevailing concepts and values and make it an effective instrument for delivery of justice.” (Para 62)
Therefore, court has to take into account social, political and economic developments and scientific inventions which take place after enactment of a statute for proper construction of its provision.

c. Reference to Other Statutes:
In case where two Acts have to be read together, then each part of every act has to be construed as if contained in one composite Act. However, if there is some clear discrepancy then the latter Act would modify the earlier. Where a single provision of one Act has to be read or added in another, then it has to be read in the sense in which it was originally construed in the first Act. In this way the whole of the first Act can be mentioned or referred in the second Act even though only a provision of the first one was adopted. In case where an old Act has been repealed, it loses its operative force.
Nevertheless, such a repealed part may still be taken into account for construing the unrepealed part.
For the purpose of interpretation or construction of a statutory provision, courts can refer to or can take help of other statutes. It is also known as statutory aids. The General Clauses Act, 1897 is an example of statutory aid.
The application of this rule of construction has the merit of avoiding any contradiction between a series of statutes dealing with the same subject, it allows the use of an earlier statute to throw light on the meaning of a phrase used in a later statute in the same context. On the same logic when words in an earlier statute have received an authoritative exposition by a superior court, use of same words in similar context in a later statute will give rise to a presumption that the legislature intends that the same interpretation should be followed for construction of those words in the later statute.

d. Dictionaries:
When a word is not defined in the statute itself, it is permissible to refer to dictionaries to find out the general sense in which that word is understood in common parlance. However, in the selection of one out of the various meanings of a word, regard must always be had to the scheme, context and legislative history.

e. Judicial Decisions:
When judicial pronouncements are been taken as reference it should be taken into note that the decisions referred are Indian, if they are foreign it should be ensured that such a foreign country follows the same system of jurisprudence as ours and that these decisions have been taken in the ground of the same law as ours. These foreign decisions have persuasive value only and are not binding on Indian courts and where
guidance is available from binding Indian decisions; reference to foreign decisions is of no use.

f. Other materials
Similarly, Supreme Court used information available on internet for the purpose of interpretation of statutory provision in Ramlal v State of Rajasthan, (2001) 1 SCC 175. [9] Courts also refer passages and materials from text books and articles and papers published in the journals. These external aids are very useful tools not only for the proper and correct interpretation or construction of statutory provision, but also for understanding the object of the statute, the mischief sought to be remedied by it, circumstances in which it was enacted and many other relevant matters. In the absence of the admissibility of these external aids, sometimes court may not be in a position to do justice in a case.

[1] B. Prabhakar Rao and others v State of A.P. and othersAIR 1986 SC 120
[2] District Mining Officer and others v Tata Iron & Steel Co. and another(2001) 7 SCC 358
[3] K.P. Varghese v Income Tax Officer ErnakulamAIR 1981 SC 1922
[4] S.R. Chaudhuri v State of Punjab and others(2001) 7 SCC 126
[5] (K.S. Paripoornan v State of Kerala and othersAIR 1995 SC 1012)
[6] Devadoss (dead) by L. Rs, v. Veera Makali Amman Koil AthalurAIR 1998 SC 750
[7] Rosy and another v State of Kerala and others(2000) 2 SCC 230
[8] S.P. Gupta v Union of IndiaAIR 1982 SC 149
[9] Ramlal v State of Rajasthan(2001) 1 SCC 175

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