AUTHORED BY: SANAH SETHI
AMITY LAW SCHOOL, NOIDA
Internal aids to interpretation
The expression ‘Aids’ means instruments or tools of assistance to carry out a particular thing done or an activity performed or obtained or explained. As far as the construction or interpretation of statutes is concerned, aid help or assist in explaining the meaning of a particular word, expression or a phrase.
The internal aids of a statute can be explained with reference to the following heads:-
Title- The very important part of a statute is, its title, without which there can be neither identity nor existence of any statute. Almost, all modern statutes have two kinds of titles namely:-
Short Title- The short title of a modern statute is generally found in a section near the end of the Act. It is a name given to a statute for the purpose of reference. It identifies the statute/Act and ends with the year in which it is passed. Example- the Indian Contract Act, 1860, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 etc. Generally in almost all modern Acts/Statutes Section, Clause (1) of the Chapter I contains the Short Title. For Example- Section 1(1) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides the short title starting “The Act may be called the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The purpose of short title is to reduce the space required for writing long title of a statute, economy in expression and convenience.”
Long Title- Long Title of a statute appears at the head and it very often preceeds the preamble of the Act. It contains in brief, the general description relating to object of the Act. The main object of the long title is to facilitate citation of Act in future enactments and other instruments. The long title of a Statute normally begins with the words “An Act to.”
For instance- the long title of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 begins with “An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to criminal procedure.”
Preamble- It follows long title i.e it appears next to the long title of a Statute/an Act enactment. It contains the object for which the Act/Statute is passed or enacted. It helps in ascertaining the most appropriate meaning to the words/expression/language used in the enactment/Statute) in case the language used in the enactment contains more than one meaning.
In Arnit Das v. State of Bihar (AIR 2000 SC 2264), the Supreme Court laid down that- “The preamble suggests what the Act intended to deal with.” The preamble must be read as a whole to ascertain, whether any provision in the enactment is clear or ambiguous.
Headings– Headings constitute an important part of the Act and affords key to the construction of sections that follow. It is a short hand reference tool, which provides a quick and brief idea about the contents of the general subject matter involved. There are two kinds of headings in a Statute namely 1) those, which are prefixed to a section and II) those, which are prefixed to a group or set of sections. These headings serve as preamble to the respective sections. The headings may be in Roman letters or in Italic letters. If the heading is in Roman letters, it is regarded as a part of the Act. If the heading is in Italic letters, it indicates subdivision of the part.
Marginal Notes- Notes or captions or headings, which appear at one side of a section of an Act is called Marginal Notes or Marginal headings. It is a key to the mind of the legislature. It is also known as side notes. It is a brief precise of the section and forms a more unsure guide to the construction of the enacting section. They were inserted in the Act by the draftsmen, not by the legislators or not as per the instructions of the legislators. Earlier marginal notes were considered to be useful as they were referred for the purpose of resolving ambiguity. But now, the majority view is that the marginal notes cannot be used for constructing the section (Karnataka Rare Earth v. Dept. of Mines & Geology AIR 2004 SC 2915).
Definition or Interpretation Clause- Section 2 or 3 of any statute comprises of a definition or interpretation clause. It provides for the definitions of some important words and concepts, which are very often used in the statute. The main object of the definitions clause is to avoid repetitions. The definitions embodied in the Statute are laid down by the legislature so as to make them binding in the courts of law. The definition embodied in the Statute itself serve as a dictionary to courts/judges to interpret the words used in the statute.
Punctuations and Brackets- Punctuation is a minor element in a statute and hence punctuations and brackets are given little importance in construction of a statute. Before 1850, there was no punctuations in the manuscript of any Act/Statute, which received Royal Assent.
In Badirinarain v. State, AIR 1959 Raj 64 it was laid down by the Supreme Court in many cases that punctuations in statutes should not be ignored.
Illustrations- Illustrations help to explain the latent content of a given section. It neither stands independently nor stand opposite to the section. They are appended to a particular section for the purpose of explaining a provision of law in a statute. For Example- 16 illustrations (a) to (p) have been appended to section 378 of the IPC, 1860, which illustrate various aspects of the offence of theft. Therefore, it is said that sections and illustrations move hand in glove with each other.
Proviso- It is a clause appended to a provision in an Act. It puts some condition, limitation or exception upon the observance of which the operation of the Act depends. The main object of a proviso is to discard special cases from the statute and to provide for them specially.
In Vishesh Kumar v. Shanti Prasad, AIR 1980 SC 892, the Supreme Court held that a proviso cannot be permitted by construction to defeat the basic intent expressed in the substantive provision.
Exceptions and saving clauses- An exception may be referred for the purpose of constructing the enacting portion. Exceptions must be construed strictly and strongly against the partly trying to take the benefit. If an exception is repugnant to the operative part of the section, it must be ignored. If an exception is given an enactment, it is supposed that the provisions of the enactment will apply to all other cases, which are not covered by the exception.
Farmers’ Bank of Feyetteville v. Hale (59 NY 53): It was held in this case that, an exception in a statute, which is inconsistent with the main body of the act is void.
Explanation- The expression ‘to explain’ means to make it clear or to make known in detail”. When the legislature feels that a particular provision in the Act/Statute/enactment is not clear and it requires explanation to clear/remove doubts, explanation is inserted to a section in a statute. The explanations help the Court in interpreting the true intendment of the enactment.
Schedules- It form the part of the statute and must be read together with it for all purposes of construction. The expressions in the Schedule cannot override the provisions of the express enactment. They often contain details and prescribed forms for working out the policy underlying the sections of the statute. Schedules may also contain transitory provisions, which remain in force till the main provision of the statute are brought into operation. Some Statutes/enactments/Acts comprise of two parts. The first part called body contains various sections/articles. While the letter part called schedules contains various model formats, tables etc. For example- The Indian Constitution comprises of two parts. The first part, the body of the enactment contains nearly 500 articles divided into 25 parts and the second part comprises of 12 schedules.