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Report No. 183

The court further observed:

"Statute being an edict of the Legislature, it is necessary that it is expressed in clear and unambiguous language. In spite of Courts saying so innumerable times, the draftsmen have paid little attention and they still boast of the old British Jingle, 'I am the Parliamentary draftsman, I compose the country's laws. And of half of the litigation, I am undoubtedly the cause"

(para 48)

In another case (Keshav Mills Company Limited v. CIT, Bombay North, AIR 1965 SC 1636), the Supreme Court has observed:

"It is general judicial experience that in matters of law involving questions of construing statutory or Constitutional provisions, two views are often reasonably possible and when judicial approach has to make a choice between the two reasonable possible views, the process of decision making is often very difficult and delicate."

(para 23)

Now, if the rules of interpretations regarding use of external aids are also provided in legislative form, then these statutory provisions about external aids may also require interpretation from the court as the language may bear two views or may be ambiguous. Therefore, the codification of these rules would not serve any purpose, rather it may create some more problems of interpretation.

In our country, rules for interpretation in the form of a scientific system were developed since very early times known as Mimamsa Principles of Interpretation. These principles were regularly used by our renowned jurists like Vijnaneshwara (author of Mitakshra), Jimutvahana (author of Dayabagh), Nanda Pandit (author of Dattak Mimamsa), etc. Whenever there was any conflict between two Smrities, eg., Manusmriti and Yagnavlkya Smriti, or ambiguity in a Shruti or Smriti, the Mimamsa Principles were utilized.

These Mimamsa rules were laid down by Jaimini in his Sutras written abound 500 B.C. No doubt, these principles of interpretation were initially laid down for interpreting religious texts pertaining to 'Yagya' (sacrifice), but gradually the same principles came to be used for interpreting legal texts also, particularly since in the Smrities the religious texts and legal texts are mixed up in the same treatises. Sir John Edge, the then Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, has referred to the Mimamsa principle in Beni Prasad v. Hardai Bibi, (1892) ILR 14 All 67 (FB).

Similarly, Gunapradhan Axiom of the Mimamsa principle was applied for interpretation of section 419 of UP Sales Tax Act in Amit Plastic Industry, Ghaziabad v. Divisional Level Committee, Meerut (CM WP No. 372/1989 decided on Nov.10, 1993). Again in Tribhuwan Mishra v. Distt. Inspector of Schools, Azamgarh (CMWP No. 17554/1990, decided on March 30, 1992 'Samajasya

The Supreme Court has also taken note of these ancient principles. In UP Bhoodan Yagna Samiti, UP v. Braj Kishore, AIR 1988 SC 2239); The apex court applied one of these principle after quoting a 'Shloka'. In this regard Court observed:

"In this country, we have a heritage of rich literature, it is interesting to note that literature of interpretation also is very well known. The principless of interpretation have been enunciated in various Shlokas which have been known for hundreds of years."

(para 11)

Can these rules of Mimamsa be incorporated in the legislative form? Answer would be a 'no'. Thus if rules of extrinsic aid and construction are codified then it may be that some radical sources are kept out of purview of interpretation unknowingly. The above discussion clearly indicates that rules for interpretation specially regarding use of external aids should not be and cannot be given legislative form.

Even if it can be given, it can be given only in an 'inclusive' form and not exhaustively. Interpretation Act 1978 of UK also does not contain rules regarding use of external aids. The draft clauses, contained in Appendix A of the joint Report of the British and Scottish Law Commission on the Interpretation of Statute submitted in the year 1969, also do not contain these rules exhaustively. Language of subclause (1) of clause 1 clearly indicates this proposition. This sub-clause is as follows:

"1 - (1) In ascertaining the meaning of any provision of an Act, the matters which may be considered shall, in addition to those which may be considered for that purpose apart from this section, include the following, that is to say -"

A plain reading of this clause indicates that this provision is inclusive in form and not exhaustive in form. Furthermore, the Interpretation Act of 1978 (UK) does not even contain this provision. The Draft Interpretation Act, 1991 submitted by the New Zealand Law Commission along with its Report No. 17 (S) on "A New Interpretation Act" does not contain provisions regarding use of external material.

In Australia, a new section 15AB has been inserted in the Interpretation Act, 1901 regarding use of extrinsic material in the interpretation of an Act. Sub-section (1) provides that in the interpretation of a provision of an Act, any material which is not forming part of the Act (extrinsic material) is capable of assisting in the ascertainment of the meaning of the provision in certain circumstances. Sub-section (2) provides a list of material that may be considered for the interpretation. But this list is also inclusive in form.

Further, some of the rules of interpretation on the use of extrinsic aids even though they have undergone some changes, do not require any codification in this regard and the recommendations made in the 60th Report have not lost relevance.

On the basis of the discussion above, we are of the view;

(1) in the event of ambiguity of a provision, for the purpose of interpretation of such a statutory provision, courts can certainly take recourse to material or aids outside the statute, i.e., external aids, and

(2) the rules of interpretation specially regarding use of external aids, should not be incorporated in the General Clauses Act, 1897 at all.

We recommend accordingly.

A continuum on the General Clauses Act, 1897 with special reference to the admissibility and codification of external aids to interpretation of statutes Back

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