Report No. 95
24. Will it not make for better interpretation of statutes if the rule putting an embargo against citing of debates in Parliament as a legitimate aid to construction is abrogated?
The time honoured practice of the English rules of interpretation of statutes that Hansard can never be relied by the court in construing a statute or for any other purpose is being challenged in England. Lord Denning thought of a way of overcoming the obstacle by referring to the debates quoted in the works of jurists [Regina v. Local Commissioner, Ex-parte Brandford Council, (1979) 1 QB 387]. But this device of looking into a text book containing the quotation from Hansard has been criticised by a writer as 'not edifying' [Statutory Reform: The Draftsman and the Judge-(1981) 30 ICLQ 141 (163)]. The Indian Law closely followed the English Law [Administrator-General of Bengal v. Premlal Mullick, ILR 22 Cal 788 (PC) 799 (800)].
But pleas have been made for whittling down the rule [State of Mysore v. R.V. Bidap, AIR 1973 SC 2555; Fagu Shaw v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1974 SC 613 (629)]. But sometimes even speeches of Ministers while piloting a Bill are not looked into [Satpal & Co. v. Lt.-Governor of Delhi, (1979) 4 SCC 232 (245)]. Lord Devlin has cited an instance [Stafford v. D.P.P., 1974 AC 878] where had their Lordships looked back at the parliamentary debates in which some of them had themselves participated in their legislative capacity they would have seen that Parliament had not the slightest intention of making a great change in the law [lecture delivered at All Souls College, Oxford on 2nd May, 1978 quoted in Devlin: The Judge (1979), pp, 148].