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Report No. 60

1.15. Historical background-Indian Act 1 of 1868.-

The provisions of Lord Brougham's Act,1 with a few additions, were adopted in India, and enacted as the General Clauses Act, 1868 (1 of 1868). A Bill on the subject had been conceived of much earlier, but it could not be prepared for various reasons, chief among them being the impression that such a Bill might possibly be suggested by the Indian Law Commissioners2 Ultimately, the Bill leading to the Act of 1868 was drafted by Whitley Stokes. In drafting the Bill, Stokes drew not only upon the earlier English statutes on the subject, but also upon the illustrations of rules of construction prepared by Arthur Symonds.3

The Act of 1868 was of a measure of a limited character. It was incomplete; but, in so far as the ground covered was concerned, it worked "fairly well". It considerably shortened the language of subsequent Central Acts. Its utility made the legislative Department think of making useful additions to it. A supplementary General Clauses Act was later enacted as the General Clauses Act, 1887 (1 of 1887). This Act was drafted by Sir C. Ilbert. Ilbert described the process by which he arrived at the list of additions proposed, in the following words:4

"The additions which I propose to make are based on personal experience during the last few years. I have had a list prepared of the special definitions inserted in Acts of Council and I find on examination of this list that there are some dozen or so of these definitions which might with advantage be generalised and added to the list contained in the Act of 1868. I also propose to generalize certain provisions which have so frequently recurred in recent Acts as to have become what conveyancers call 'common form' ".

1. Para. 1.14, supra.

2. Gazette of India, August 24th, 1867, p. 1220.

3. Whitley Stokes Anglo Indian Code, (1887), Vol. 1, p. 485

4. Legislative proceedings, (1886), p. 305

General Clauses Act, 1897 Back

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