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Report No. 60

5.9. Need to re-settle the law.-

On principle, the rule that a marginal note is not relevant for the interpretation of a legal provision applies as much to the constitution as to an ordinary law. But, so far as ordinary Acts of Parliament are concerned, it is desirable to settle the law-or, if one prefers that expression-to re-settle the law,1 The reason given usually for not treating marginal notes as part of the Act and as not admissible in interpretation is that the Legislature does not discuss them when discussing the Bill, and that they are never put to vote and can be amended under the authority of Government without reference to Parliament.

We would, however, like to point out that apart from this, there is a more substantial reason. The reason is that the marginal note is intended merely to give a brief indication of the matters dealt with in the provision against which it appears, and is not intended to give an exhaustive picture of the section. In fact, logically, it is difficult to see how a marginal not (even if it purports to give a complete picture of the section) can be taken into account in construing the section, because, then we would have not one but two parallel provisions on the same subject at the same place. However careful the draftsman may be in framing the marginal note, it is impossible for him to put everything in it. By its very nature, it is a compressed gist of the section. It is not intended to have a legal effect. It is an extra-legal aid inserted for convenience.

1. Para. 5.2, supra.

5.10. Judicial evolution has itself failed to yield any reasonably certain test. In addition to the cases already cited,1 we may refer to a fairly recent decision of the House of Lords,2 where Lord Reid and Lord Upjohn have, as to the proper use of marginal notes, expressed views which, to some extent, run on divergent lines. It may incidentally be noted that in India, Central Act (1 of 1854) was the first Act3 introduced and passed in Council which contained marginal notes.

1. See para. 5.2, supra.

2. D.P.P. v. Schnieder, (1969) 3 All ER 1649 (1651, 1657).

3. Central Act 1 of 1854 related to acquisition of land.

General Clauses Act, 1897 Back

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