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Report No. 183

In this connection section 29 of the Act of 1897 is relevant, which is quoted below:

"29. Savings for previous enactments, rules and bylaws. The provisions of this Act respecting the construction of Acts, Regulations, rules or bye laws made after the commencement of this Act, shall not affect the construction of any Act, Regulation, rule or bye law made before the commencement of this Act, although the Act, Regulation, rule or bye-law is continued or amended by an Act, Regulation, rule or bye law made after the commencement of this Act."

This section 29 forbids the application of its provisions for the purpose of construction of such Acts, Regulations, rules or bye laws which had been made before the commencement of the General Clauses Act, 1897, even though they have continued in operation after the commencement of Act of 1897 or amended by a subsequent legislation after 1897.

This section 29 corresponds to section 40 of British Interpretation Act, 1889. It states as follows:

"40. Saving for past Acts. The provisions of this Act respecting the construction of Acts passed after the commencement of this Act shall not affect the construction of any Act passed before the commencement of this Act, although it is continued or amended by an Act passed after such commencement."

These provisions (sections 3 and section 29 of the General Clauses Act, 1897) make it clear that the rules of construction of statutes and the meaning of the words and phrases given in the General Clauses Act, 1897 would be applicable only to those Central Acts, Regulation, rules or bye laws which are made after the commencement of Act of 1897. As observed in the 60th Report of the Law Commission quoted below, the reason behind the above conclusion is that a particular statute should be interpreted according to the rules for construction prevailing at the time of its enactment. Later changes in the rules of construction should not affect former enactments. It is stated in the 60th Report of the Law Commission of India at para 1.20 as follows:

"1.20 Whether there should be one Act or two Acts Before making our detailed recommendation for revision of the Act, we consider it necessary to examine a few preliminary questions. One such question relates to the form which proposed changes should take. The basic question is whether there should be one Interpretation Act, or whether there should be two Interpretation Acts. Need for making choice in this respect arises because a view has been put forth that the present General Clauses Act should continue for the interpretation of the existing Central Acts etc. and a new full fledged interpretation Act should be proposed for the interpretation of Central Acts etc., to be enacted hereafter."

The Law Commission at para 1.21 of the 60th Report observed as follows:

"No doubt, the initiation of a totally new interpretation Act (with only prospective effect) has an advantage inasmuch as the radical changes will not apply to existing Acts. But the same object could, in a fair measure, be achieved by suggesting new provisions for 38 39 incorporation in the present Act, at the same time making those new provisions prospective. The proposal for having two Acts does not, in this respect have any peculiar merit."

(emphasis laid)

Again at para 1.22, the Law Commission has observed:

"As regards, the new provisions to be inserted in the Act, care is being taken to ensure that such of them as are likely to create any difficulty will be prospective only..."

Article 367 of the Constitution of India provides that unless the context otherwise requires, the General Clauses Act, 1897 shall apply for the interpretation of the Constitution as it applies for the interpretation of an Act of the Legislature of the Dominion of India. But, it is subject to any adaptation or modification that may be made under Article, 372. Now, question arises whether any amendment made in the General Clauses Act, 1897 would affect the Interpretation of the Constitution? The answer to this question is stated in the 60th Report of Law Commission at para 1.28 which is as follows:

"Any amendment, additions or deletions which may be made in the General Clauses Act, 1897, would not affect the Constitution. Interpretation of the Constitution will continue to be governed by the General Clauses Act, as in force immediately before the Constitution (subject to adaptations made under Article 372 of the Constitution). The Act cannot be so repealed or modified as to affect the interpretation of the Constitution."



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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