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Report No. 183

(3) Usages and Practice

Usages and practice developed under a statute is indicative of the meaning ascribed to its words by contemporary opinion and in case of an ancient statute, such reference to usage and practice is an admissible external aid to its construction. But this principle is not applicable to a modern statute and it is confined to the construction of ambiguous language used in old statute. This principle of 'contemporanea exposito' was applied by the Supreme Court in National and Grindlays Bank v. Municipal Corporation for Greater Bombay, AIR 1969 SC 1048 while construing Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888.

The apex court also referred to the actual practice in the matter of appointment of judges of Supreme Court and High Court in the context of interpreting Articles 74 and 124 of the Constitution and observed that the practice being in conformity with the constitutional scheme should be accorded legal sanction by permissible constitutional interpretation. (see Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association v. Union of India, AIR 1994 SC 268.

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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