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Report No. 183

(1) Parliamentary material

(a) Debates - Courts often take recourse to parliamentary material like debates in Constituent Assembly, speeches of the movers of the Bill, Reports of Committees or Commission, Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, etc. As per traditional English view, these parliamentary material or Hansard were inadmissible as external aids, on the basis of 'exclusionary rule'. This "exclusionary rule" was slowly given up and finally in Pepper v. Hart, (1993) 1 ALLER 42 (HL), it was held that parliamentary material or Hansard may be admissible as an external aid for interpretation of a statute, subject to parliamentary privilege, under following circumstances; where (a) legislation is ambiguous or obscure or leads to an absurdity;

(b) the material relied on consists of one or more statements by a minister or other promoter of the Bill, together, if necessary, with such other parliamentary material as is necessary to understand such statements and their effect; and

(c) the statements relied on are clear.

Indian Courts, in early days followed the 'exclusionary rule' which prevailed in England and refused to admit parliamentary material or Constituent Assembly debates for the purpose of interpretation of statutory or constitutional provision (see State of Travancore- Cochin and others v. Bombay Co. Ltd., AIR 1952 SC 366; Aswini Kumar Ghose and another v. Arbinda Bose and another, AIR 1952 SC 369. However, in subsequent cases, the Supreme Court relaxed this 'exclusionary rule, much before the law laid down in England in 'Pepper' case. Krishna Iyer J. in State of Mysore v. R.V. Bidop, AIR 1973 SC 2555, quoted a passage from Crawford on Statutory Construction (page 383) in which exclusionary rule was criticized. The relevant passage is quoted below:-

"The rule of Exclusion has been criticized by jurists as artificial. The trend of academic opinion and the practice in the European system suggests that interpretation of statute being an exercise in the ascertainment of meaning, everything which is logically relevant should be admissible"

Krishna Iyer J. has observed in this case:-

"There is a strong case for whittling down the Rule of Exclusion followed in the British courts and for less apologetic reference to legislative proceedings and like materials to read the meaning of the words of a statute."

(para 5)

In this regard, Bhagwati J. (as he then was) in Fagu Shaw etc. v. The State of West Bengal, AIR 1974 SC 613 has stated:

"Since the purpose of interpretation is to ascertain the real meaning of a constitutional provision, it is evident that nothing that is logically relevant to this process should be excluded from consideration. It was at one time thought that the speeches made by the members of the Constituent Assembly in the course of the debates of the Draft Constitution were wholly inadmissible as extraneous aids to the interpretation of a constitutional provision, but of late there has been a shift in this position and following the recent trends in juristic thought in some of the Western countries and the United States, the rule of exclusion rigidly followed in Anglo American jurisprudence has been considerably diluted.

We may therefore legitimately refer to the Constituent Assembly debates for the purpose of ascertaining what was the object which the Constitution makers had in view and what was the purpose which they intended to achieve when they enacted cls (4) and (7) in their present form."

(para 45)

Again in R.S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay (Supra), the Supreme Court observed in this regard:

"Therefore, it can be confidently said that the exclusionary rule is flickering in its dying embers in its native land of birth and has been given a decent burial by this Court."

(para 34)

The Supreme Court in a numbers of cases referred to debates in the Constituent Assembly for interpretation of Constitutional provisions. Recently, the Supreme Court in S.R. Chaudhuri v. State of Punjab and others, (2001) 7 SCC 126 has stated that it is a settled position that debates in the Constituent Assembly may be relied upon as an aid to interpret a Constitutional provision because it is the function of the Court to find out the intention of the framers of the Constitution.

(para 33)

But as far as speeches in Parliament are concerned, a distinction is made between speeches of the mover of the Bill and speeches of other Members. Regarding speeches made by the Members of the Parliament at the time of consideration of a Bill, it has been held that they are not admissible as extrinsic aids to the interpretation of the statutory provision. (see - K.S. Paripoornan v. State of Kerala and others, AIR 1995 SC 1012).

However, speeches made by the mover of the Bill or Minister may be referred to for the purpose of finding out the object intended to be achieved by the Bill (see K.S. Paripoornan's case ( supra). J. S. Verma J (as he then was) in R.Y. Prabhoo (Dr.) v. P.K. Kunte, (1995) 7 SCALE 1 made extensive reference to the speech of the then Law Minister Shri A.K. Sen for construing the word 'his' occurring in subsection (3) of section 123 of the Representation of People Act 1951. Similarly, Supreme Court in P.V. Narsimha Rao v. State, AIR 1998 SC 2120 agreeing with the view taken in Pepper v. Hart (Supra) has observed:

"It would thus be seen that as per the decisions of this Court, the statement of the Minister who had moved the Bill in Parliament can be looked at to ascertain mischief sought to be remedied by the legislation and the object and purpose for which the legislation is enacted. The statement of the Minister who had moved the Bill in Parliament is not taken into account for the purpose of interpreting the provision of the enactment."

(Para 77).

The Supreme Court in Sushila Rani v. CIT and another, (2002) 2 SCC 697 referred to the speech of the Minister to find out the object of 'Kar Vivad Samadhan Scheme 1998'.

(b) Statement of Objects and Reasons - So far as Statement of Objects and Reasons, accompanying a legislative bill is concerned, it is permissible to refer to it for understanding the background, the antecedent state of affairs, the surr ounding circumstances in relation to the statute and the evil which the statute sought to remedy. But, it cannot be used to ascertain the true meaning and effect of the substantive provision of the statute. (Devadoss (dead) by L. Rs, v. Veera Makali Amman Koil Athalur, AIR 1998 SC 750.

(c) Reports of Parliamentary Committees and Commissions - Reports of Commissions including Law Commission or Committees including Parliamentary Committees preceding the introduction of a Bill can also be referred to in the Court as evidence of historical facts or of surrounding circumstances or of mischief or evil intended to be remedied. Obviously, courts can take recourse to these materials as an external aid for interpretation of the Act.

Though, the Supreme Court 13 14 refused to take recourse to the Report of the special Committee which had been appointed by the Government of India to examine the provision of the Partnership Bill for construing the provisions of the Partnership Act, 1932 in CIT, A.P. v. Jaylakshmi Rice and Oil Mills Contractor Co., AIR 1971 SC 1015, yet in another case Haldiram Bhujiawala and another v. Anand Kumar Deepak Kumar and another, (2000) 3 SCC 250, the Supreme Court took recourse to the very same report of the Special Committee (1930-31) for construing the provisions of section 69 of the Partnership Act, 1932.

The Supreme Court in the above case held that decision in CIT v. Jaylakshmi Rice & Oil Mills (supra) in this respect is no longer good law. Law Commission's Reports can also be referred to where a particular enactment or amendment is the result of recommendations of Law Commission Report. (see Mithilesh Kumari v. Prem Behari Khare, AIR 1989 SC 1247). Similarly, the Supreme Court in Rosy and another v. State of Kerala and others, (2000) 2 SCC 230 considered Law Commission of India, 41st Report for interpretation of section 200 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure,1898. The above discussion obviously indicates that parliamentary material including committees and commission reports are admissible external aid for interpretation of statutory provisions.

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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