Report No. 183
A continuum on the General Clauses Act, 1897 with special reference to the admissibility and codification of external aids to interpretation of statutes
The Law Commission has received a reference dated 28.1.2002 from the Legislative Department, Ministry of Law, Justice and Company affairs, Government of India for examining the Commission's 60th Report on the General Clauses Act, 1897 submitted to the Govt. of India in the year 1974. The reference specifically seeks the Commission's view on the issue whether extrinsic aids should be made admissible in construction or interpretation of a statute, and if so, whether rules for extrinsic aids should be codified and incorporated in the General Clauses Act, 1897?
It has been stated in the reference that there has been conflict in judicial decisions as to the admissibility of extrinsic aids and our courts are not following uniform approach to principles of statutory construction especially regarding tools relating to external aids. Some decisions of Apex Court have also been cited in support of this observation. We will discuss some of these decisions in this report.
The reference also states that the 60th Report was submitted in 1974 and since then, many new statues have come into force and some of the canons of interpretation on the use of extrinsic aid have also undergone changes. Further, if the Law Commission's 60th Report is now implemented, then there may be "criticism that the said Report has lost its relevance because of a long gap". We may, however, state that the question of external aids was specifically dealt with in Chapter II of the 60th report.