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Law Commission of India

183rd Report

on

A continuum on the General Clauses Act, 1897
with special reference to the admissibility and
codification of external aids to interpretation of
statutes

2

November, 2002

D.O.No.6(3)(79)/2002-LC(LS)

8.11.2002

Dear Shri Janakrishnamurthy Ji,
I am sending herewith the 183rd report on “A continuum on the General Clauses Act, 1897 with special reference to the admissibility and codification of external aids to interpretation of statutes”.

2.
The subject was taken up in pursuance to reference dated 28.1.2002 from the Legislative Department, Ministry of Law, Justice & Co. Affairs, Government of India for examining the Commission’s 60th Report on the General Clauses Act, 1897 submitted to the Government of India in the year, 1974. The reference specifically seeks the Commission’s views on the issue whether extrinsic aids should be made admissible in construction or interpretation of a statute, and if so, whether rules for extrinsic aids should be codified and incorporated in the General Clauses Act, 1897? Further, it was stated in the reference that there has been conflict in judicial decisions as to the admissibility of extrinsic aids and our courts are not following uniform approach to principles of statutory constructions especially regarding tools relating to external aids. Another question was also posed in the reference that since 1974 when the 60th Report of the Commission was submitted, many new statutes have come into force and some of the canons of interpretation on the use of extrinsic aid have also undergone changes, would it not lead to a ‘criticism that the said report has lost its relevance because of a long gap’. The Commission has examined the following main issues arising out of the said reference:

A)
Whether the General Clauses Act, 1897 should also provide the principles of interpretation of a statute as regards the extrinsic aids of interpretation and;
B)
Whether recommendations made in the said 60th Report need any revision or whether those have lost relevance now.
The Commission has given its considered recommendations on these issues in this report.
With regards,

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Yours sincerely,

(Justice M. Jagannadha Rao)
Shri Janakrishna Murthy,
Hon’ble Minister for Law & Justice,
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi.

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CONTENTS

Sl.No

CONTENTS

PAGE Nos.

1.

Report – A continuum on the General
Clauses Act, 1897 with special reference
to the admissibility and codification of
external aids to interpretation of statutes

1 - 37

The Law Commission has received a reference dated 28.1.2002
from the Legislative Department, Ministry of Law, Justice and Company affairs, Government of India for examining the Commission’s 60th Report on the General Clauses Act, 1897 submitted to the Govt. of India in the year 1974. The reference specifically seeks the Commission’s view on the issue whether extrinsic aids should be made admissible in construction or interpretation of a statute, and if so, whether rules for extrinsic aids should be codified and incorporated in the General Clauses Act, 1897? It has been stated in the reference that there has been conflict in judicial decisions as to the admissibility of extrinsic aids and our courts are not following uniform approach to principles of statutory construction 4

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especially regarding tools relating to external aids.

Some decisions of

Apex Court have also been cited in support of this observation. We will discuss some of these decisions in this report.
The reference also states that the 60th Report was submitted in 1974 and since then, many new statues have come into force and some of the canons of interpretation on the use of extrinsic aid have also undergone changes.

Further, if the Law Commission’s 60th Report is

now implemented, then there may be “criticism that the said Report has lost its relevance because of a long gap”. We may, however, state that...
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