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Report No. 156

Clauses 2 to 8

12.03. Chapter II provides for general explanations. Sections 6 to 52A contain various definitions and explanations. The object of definition is to avoid the necessity of frequent repetitions in describing the subject-matter to which the word or expression is intended to apply. The definitions may be restrictive and exhaustive but sometimes may be inclusive and exclusive. In other words, a definition may be inclusive and exclusive, i.e., it may include certain things and exclude others.

It is well settled that the definition is not to be read in isolation but must be read in the context of the phrase which defines because the function of a definition is to give precision and certainty to a word or a phrase which would otherwise be vague and uncertain. In The Vanguard Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd., Madras v. M/s Fraser and Ross, AIR 1960 SC 971, the court observed -

"It is well settled that all statutory definitions of abbreviations must be read subject to the qualification variously expressed in the definition clauses which created them and it may be that even where the definition is exhaustive inasmuch as the word defined is said to mean a certain thing, it is possible for the word to have a somewhat different meaning in different sections of the Act depending upon the subject of the context".

Section 6 lays down that throughout the Code (I.P.C.), every definition of an offence, every penal provision, etc., shall be understood subject to the exceptions contained in the chapter titled "General Explanations", though those exceptions are not repeated in such definition, penal provision or illustration.

Section 7 adds that every expression which is explained in any part of the Code, is used in every part of the Code in conformity with the explanation.

In these sections, various words and explanations used in the Code are defined.

The Law Commission, in its 42nd Report, clearly observed that neither the definitions nor the general rules of construction contained in General clauses Act are applicable to the Indian Penal Code except to a very limited extent but, however, noted that to some extent there is overlapping resulting in duplication which can be removed by expressly providing that the General Clauses Act shall apply for the interpretation of the Code.

To that extent, the Commission recommended the omission of certain sections containing the definitions which are there in the General Clauses Act also. In this view, the Law Commission recommended deletion of sections 8, 9 and 10 which define 'gender', 'number', 'man', 'woman' and section 11 defining 'person'. In the Bill, by virtue of clause 5, these sections 8, 9 and 11 stand deleted since these expressions are in the same terms as they are found in the General Clauses Act.

A perusal of the General Clauses Act, 1897 would show that the definitions and the General Rules of Construction contained therein are not specifically made applicable to the Indian Penal Code except to a very limited extent. It is well accepted that all penal statutes are to be construed strictly and that the court must see that any act or omission charged of, amounts to an offence within the plain meaning of the words used in the Code and the word should not be strained in construing the penal statutes, its cardinal principle being that in case of doubt the construction favourable to the subject should be preferred.

The framers of the Indian Penal Code had in view this general scope of the substantive law in incorporating the definitions in the chapter of General Explanations. It is also an accepted principle that the essence of a penal law is to be exhaustive on the merits in respect of which it declares the law. In so construing very often the meaning and the object underlying the definitions with reference to the offence Charged assumes importance.

To determine that a case is within the ambit of the statute, its language must be explicit and facilitate the court as to what to say and how to interpret. Having regard to these aspects, it is better to retain the definitions in the Penal Code instead of omitting them as recommended by the Law Commission in its 42nd Report. In the result, we do not recommend any changes on sections 8, 9 and 11. Consequently, clauses 2 to 8 of the will have to be deleted.

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