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Nature and Parts of Statutes

The judiciary uses the process of interpretation to ascertain the meaning of legislation and other legal provisions. It generally refers to the procedure by which a court attempts to find the genuine meaning of a word, phrase, or expression that is in dispute in any statute that is before the court and ascertain the true intention of the legislator behind such a legislative provision. This paper is about the nature and parts of statutes by which the judiciary interpret the provisions.

The formally written enactment of a legislative authority governing a nation, state, or city is referred to as a 'statute' in the Black Law Dictionary. Throughout the Indian Constitution, the word 'law' is used instead of 'statute.'Article 13(3)(a) of the Indian Constitution defines 'law' as any of the following: notifications, ordinances, orders, by-laws, rules, regulations, customs, or practices that have legal standing inside the borders of India.

The term 'statute' can also refer to an international treaty that creates an institution, like the European Central Bank Statute, or a protocol to international courts, like the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Law is also known by the term statute. In the eighteenth century or so, the phrase was borrowed from England. A statue can be categorized based on its length of time, type of operation, purpose, and scope of use.

The Latin word 'interpretari', which means to explain or expound, is where the word interpretation originates. Translating a document into its actual context or providing an explanation is what it signifies. The court's main job is to determine the legislature's intent from the wording employed in the statute. The court must adhere to specific guidelines while interpreting the Act. We refer to these guidelines as rules of interpretation. An accurate interpretation of the law is necessary to ascertain the precise intent of the legislator when interpreting statutes.

Nature of Statutes:
There has been much debate over what constitutes the essence or nature of law. The problem has already been the subject of multiple questions addressed by various Greek intellectuals, and the answer is still unclear. That is not to say that there isn't a clear solution; rather, it only means that there isn't one that is comprehensive enough to be called definitive. Additionally, this subject has captivated legal philosophy and jurisprudence.

The law has a wide range of uses and functions. It contributes to keeping the peace. Since violence has no place in society, the government's directives, or laws, as we would call them, are responsible for maintaining peace. Standards are also established by law. It also defends people's rights. People cannot even claim their rightful basic rights in the absence of laws.

The law is also regarded as a viable professional choice. Barack Obama and Mahatma Gandhi are among those who are connected to the legal profession. It served as a springboard for their achievement. In the legal field, one can pursue careers in litigation, civil services, academia, or the corporate world. Nature of Statute is also expressed in the classification of Statutes.

Classification of Statutes:
Statutes can be classified based on their duration, nature, purpose and scope.

Based on Duration:
There are generally two types of Statutes. They are:
  1. Temporary Statutes:
    A temporary statute is one that, in its text, establishes a time limit for its implementation and enforcement. If it isn't repealed before the designated amount of time passes, it stays in force. A new enactment is needed if the legislature wants to broaden its scope. One temporary act that needs to be reauthorized every year is the Finance Act.
  2. Permanent statutes:
    In Permanent statutes, there is no time limit mentioned. It does not mean it can't be changed, it can be altered by amending or repealed by bringing another act.

Based on nature of operation:
  • Prospective Statutes:
    Prospective effect of Statutes means the Act will be applicable on the date of commencement of the Act only.
  • Retrospective Statutes:
    Retrospective effect of Statutes means the Act also be applicable before the date of commencement of the Act. Eg: Land acquisition Act 2013.
  • Mandatory or imperative or obligatory statutes:
    An obligatory statute requires that certain things be done in a given way or format, or it forces the performance of specific actions. Legal consequences usually follow Non-compliance.
  • Directory or permissive statutes:
    A directory statute does not require activities to be performed; rather, it just offers guidance or permission. Statutes often include requirements or forms that are thought to be necessary for the regulated action, and failing to comply with them might make the action void. In other situations, these guidelines are regarded as non-binding, and breaking them could result in fines if the statute stipulates any.
According to the ruling in H.V. Kamath v. Ahmad Ishaque, directory provisions need to be substantially complied with in order to satisfy legal requirements, whereas mandatory provisions must be strictly followed.

Based on Objectives:
  1. Codified statutes:
    A codifying statute is one that attempts to provide a thorough summary of all the laws pertaining to a particular topic. It aims to give a comprehensive and reliable summary of the main legal guidelines relating to that topic. This may also include common law concepts and current laws from various statutes on the matter.

    As an illustration, consider the English Bill of Exchange Act of 1882, which defined regulations pertaining to promissory notes, checks, and bills of exchange. Comparably, India's Hindu Succession Act of 1956 is a codifying law that deals with Hindu intestate succession.
  2. Consolidating statutes:
    A consolidating statute makes a body of legislation easier to access and comprehend by combining all statutory enactments pertaining to a certain subject into one. It compiles the current legal provisions on the matter, frequently with just slight adjustments.

    For example, the Law of Property Act of 1925 in England combined the 1922 and 1924 legislation. A consolidated act pertaining to criminal procedures in India is the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973. For the sake of clarity, this legislation not only repeals previous actions but also combines previous laws.
  3. Declaratory statutes:
    A declaratory statute is one that makes definitions of terms and idioms used in common law or statutory law clear and eliminates ambiguities. A declaratory act is passed to establish the right meaning of an expression when the legislature's intention differs from the interpretation given by the courts. Declaratory acts include the Income Tax (Amendment) Act of 1985 in India, which altered section 40 of the Income Tax Act of 1961 by adding an explanation, and the Finance Act of 1987, which changed section 27 definition of 'owner of house property.'

    It's crucial to remember that a statute is not always announced simply by using the words 'it is hereby declared.' The declaratory Statutes uses the preamble and uses the words like 'declared' or 'enacted' to indicate its intent.
  4. Remedial statutes:
    A law that provides more assistance or a new solution is known as a remedial statute. Its primary goals are to fix issues or inaccuracies in the previous legislation and enhance the protection of rights. The Maternity Benefits Act of 1961 and the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1923 are two instances of remedial statutes. The words 'for remedy whereof' are frequently seen immediately before the actual law in these statutes.

    Legal scholar Blackstone thought that the scope of rights might be expanded or restricted by remedial statutes. One may expand rights when the law is more liberal; on the other hand, one could lower rights when the law restricts already-existing legal rights. In the Central Railway Workshop, Jhansi v. Vishwanath case, the court determined that promoting the general welfare is the aim of all welfare state initiatives. Some laws are more sensitive to urgent social needs and have a more obvious and direct impact on resolving social issues.
  5. Enabling Statutes:
    An enabling statute is a legal provision that, with or without precise guidelines on how to apply it, permits actions that were previously prohibited. It expands the bounds of common law permissibility. An action is made legal even when it wouldn't be otherwise by enabling laws.

    The court noted that an enabling act not only allows something to happen but also provides the required authority to take the necessary actions to accomplish the law's objective in the case of Bidi, Bidi Leaves, and Tobacco Merchants Association v. State of Bombay . Any requirements imposed on the public good by an enabling act must be complied with because they are necessary.
  6. Disabling statutes:
    A disabling statute is one that curtails or diminishes a common law right. It's a law that limits a right recognized by common law.
  7. Prohibitory Statutes:
    A law that imposes penalties for specific offenses is known as a penal statute. A comprehensive criminal code with numerous parts outlining the penalties for various offenses is one example of this kind of law. Penal statutes include, for example, the Indian Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Arms Act of 1959, and the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954.

    Violations of these laws may result in fines, property forfeiture, incarceration, or possibly the death penalty. A statute is deemed to be punishing when it uses the imposition of sanctions as prescribed by the law to enforce compliance rather than suing specific individuals. Penalties can only be applied when the law specifically specifies them, and any uncertainty ought to work in the accused's favor.
  8. Taxing statutes:
    A taxation statute is a legal provision that levies taxes on a specified kind of revenue or transaction. Wealth taxes, sales taxes, gift taxes, and income taxes are a few examples. The government can raise funds to fund public welfare programs thanks to these levies. In order to benefit the person being taxed, a statute must explicitly specify that taxes must be paid and that there can be no disputes about it.
  9. Explanatory statutes:
    A statute that clarifies another law is known as an explanatory statute. It was made to explain unclear passages or close any gaps in an earlier law. An explanatory statute seeks to clarify the meaning of a term that was used in a previous law. For example, the Royal Mines Act of 1688 was created in Britain to promote the extraction of specific base metals. In order to give a clearer explanation of the previous law, the Royal Mines Act of 1963 was passed.
  10. Amending Statutes:
    A statute that amends another law in order to make it better or better fulfill its original intent is known as an amending statute. It becomes a part of the existing legislation and does not negate it. The Land Acquisition (Amendments) Act of 1984 and the Direct Tax Amendments Act of 1974 are two examples.
  11. Repealing Statutes:
    A statute that repeals a prior law is known as a repealing statute. It may do this overtly by making it clear in the statute or subtly by using certain words. The Hyderabad Municipal and Town Committees Act of 1951, for instance, was abolished by the Hyderabad District Municipalities Act of 1956.
  12. Curative or Validating Statutes:
    A curative or validating statute is one that was created to address issues with an earlier statute or to provide legal processes, documents, or actions with legal standing even when they didn't comply with the letter of the law. Phrases like 'notwithstanding any judgment, decree, or court order' are frequently seen in these statutes. They are intended to overturn judicial rulings or legitimize previously illegal acts.

    The Supreme Court of India clarified in a case involving Amarendra Kumar Mohapatra and others v. State of Orissa and others that, although courts have the authority to determine legal rights, legislation validating unlawful acts or laws can only be passed by the legislature. Nonetheless, the court needs to take three factors into account while determining whether a validating law is valid:
    • Whether the statute addresses the issues that rendered the prior action or legislation void.
    • Whether the legislature was able to uphold a decision that had previously been deemed invalid.
    • Whether the validation upholds constitutionally protected rights. Only in the event that the answers to these three questions are 'yes' is a validating law effective.
Parts of Statutes:
A statute is the will of the legislature. It contains the following particulars.
  1. Titles of Statutes:
    Statute titles are essential for giving references and a broad understanding of the legislation's intent. Commonly used titles fall into one of two categories:
    1. Short Title:
      An Act's short title acts as a concise designation for the legislation, making it simple to find and refer to. Usually included in Section 1 of the Act, it also provides the year that it was passed.

      The Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), for instance, specifies in Section 1 that 'This Act may be cited as the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.' The Indian Contract Act also says in its first section, 'This Act may be called the Indian Contract Act, 1872.'
    2. Long title:
      Certain Acts have a long title that serves as a general summary of the legislation's goal or purpose. It provides an outline of the Act's intended use and scope. It is noteworthy, therefore, that the long title is not regarded as a definitive tool for statutory interpretation. Instead of providing clear knowledge of the subject matter of the Act, it does not clarify any misunderstandings that may occur within the statutory requirements.

      For example, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is titled 'An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the criminal procedure.' In a similar vein, the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) is titled 'An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the procedure of the courts of civil judicature.'

      Although the long title gives a general impression of the Act's intent, when particular provisions and other internal aids are available, it should not be the exclusive source of interpretation.
  2. Preamble:
    An Act's Preamble, which summarizes the primary goals and motivations for the legislation, acts as an internal help for interpretation. Preambles usually don't matter much when an Act's provisions are expressed in plain, straightforward language. On the other hand, the preamble can help determine the actual meaning of the provision if there are possible divergent interpretations.

    The Preamble usually appears on the first page of the Act; however, it's important to remember that Preambles are rarely included in modern Acts, which lessens their significance.

    The West Bengal Special Courts Act, 1950's Section 5, was contested as unconstitutional in the State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali case on the basis that it violated Article 14 of the Constitution. This clause gave the state government the authority to designate particular matters for trial in unique courts using unique protocols. The Supreme Court decided that the state government had the authority to select such situations after citing the Act's Preamble.
  3. Marginal notes:
    Brief explanations can be found separated at the side of Act sections and referred to as marginal notes or side notes. They do not belong in the statute, but they do communicate the intent of the provision. Usually, drafters insert marginal remarks, not lawmakers.

    When a provision's precise meaning was unclear in the past, marginal notes were occasionally taken into account for interpretation. However, because legislators do not add marginal notes or include them in the bill itself, the present perspective of the court holds that they do not have a substantial impact. However, because the constituent assembly drafts the marginal notes, they are sometimes cited when interpreting the constitution.

    The Indian Supreme Court ruled in the case of Bengal Immunity Company v. State of Bihar that the marginal notes of Article 286�which deal with limitations on the imposition of taxes on the sale or purchase of goods�are deemed to be a part of the Indian Constitution. They might therefore be counted on to shed light on the meaning and goal of the piece.

    Even though marginal notes might not be very important for evaluating statutes, they can nonetheless provide important background information when interpreting constitutional clauses.
  4. Headings:
    Within a statute, headings are appended to sections or groupings of sections. These headers have been interpreted by courts as preambles to the accompanying section or sections. It is crucial to remember that headings have no authority over the provision's plain language. Headings provide internal support for interpreting statutes.

    Their application is restricted to situations in which multiple interpretations are possible based on a section's plain reading. In these circumstances, the court may look to the headers for direction in determining the legislative intent.

    The meaning of Section 217 of the Road Traffic Act was challenged in the case of Tolley v. Giddings . 'Miscellaneous and general' was the heading of the clause, and 'Penalization of taking a motor vehicle without authority' was the subheading. The court determined that the passenger might be held accountable for an infraction since the headings made the legislature's meaning evident.
  5. Illustrations:
    The appendices to statute sections serve as instances of the laws that are outlined in the provisions through illustrations. They make clear the intent of the legislature and are a resource for unclear or repugnant situations. Nonetheless, it is emphasized by a number of rulings that the examples do not exhaust the section's content or restrict its application. If there is a conflict between provisions and illustration, provisions will be considered.

    For example: Section 378 of Indian Penal Code has 16 illustrations.
  6. Explanation:
    Statutes often include explanations to help make a provision more understandable and to dispel any questions that may have arisen otherwise. Explanations serve to clarify ambiguities or obscurities in the Act, provide further evidence in favor of the Act's goal, and explain the meaning and intention of the Act. As a result, explanations also function as internal tools for statutory interpretation.

    Nevertheless, clarifications merely seek to allay confusion; they neither increase nor decrease the meaning of the clause. In the event that an explanation and the main section clash, the court must reconcile the two.

    For example, the definition of 'abettor' under Section 108 of the IPC includes five justifications.
  7. Definition or interpretation Statutes:
    Definition or interpretation Statutes contain clauses that define terms that are used repeatedly and expand the meaning of some words to comply with the aim of the act, reducing the need for repeated explanations. Additionally, these clauses help to minimize confusion by making clear the legislature's intention about the usage of particular words in the act.

    When 'means' or 'means and includes' are used in a definition clause, the definition is considered exhaustive and does not permit a more expansive interpretation. This is the rule of interpretation governing definition clauses. When the term 'includes' is used, on the other hand, it offers the broadest interpretation or expands the word's typical meaning.

    The court will not apply such definitions, meanwhile, if doing so would produce an irrational outcome. Furthermore, unless there are statutes in pari materia, the defining clause of one statute cannot be used to explain a word used in another statute.

    In the case of Mahalakshmi Oils Mills v. State of Andhra Pradesh, the meaning of the term 'tobacco' was contested. According to the definition, tobacco includes the leaf stalks and stems of the tobacco plant, as well as any type of tobacco, produced or un manufactured. The Supreme Court declined to include tobacco seeds in the definition of tobacco, ruling that the term was comprehensive.
  8. Punctuation:
    Several symbols, including colons, semicolons, commas, full stops, dashes, hyphens, brackets, and more, are used to represent statue punctuation. Statutes were passed without proper punctuation in the past, so judges had to give them additional weight. Modern statutes, on the other hand, are passed punctually.

    The rule of interpretation for punctuated provisions states that the court should read the law as a whole and not give the punctuation any weight if it finds itself faced with repugnancy or uncertainty. It should be regarded appropriately if the message is obvious.
  9. Schedules:
    Schedules, which provide further information, specify forms, and identify topics, are appended to statutes. The main body of an act takes precedence over the timetable in the event of a conflict. Thus, schedules support internal aid of interpretation.

    For example, Schedule 1 lists all of the states' names and their boundaries, while Article 1 of the constitution declares that India would be a union of states.
  10. Saving Clauses:
    Savings provisions are usually added to statutes that are repealed and then reenacted. To guarantee that rights already established under the repealed law are not disturbed and that no new rights are created, they are put into the repealing statute. When a statute's saving clause and its main body disagree, the saving clause is disregarded.
  11. Provisos:
    A proviso is an internal tool for statutory interpretation and is deemed to be part of the section. It is intended to qualify or exempt specific provisions, establish necessary requirements for the legislation to be feasible, function as an optional addendum, or integrate into the enactment itself.

    Provisos cannot be interpreted to negate the effects of the main enactment or to broaden its scope. Only in cases of ambiguity within the provision may provisos be referred to. In the event that a proviso and the main enactment disagree, they must be interpreted harmoniously. However, other legal scholars contend that because the proviso expresses the legislature's most recent intent, it is superior.

    For example, as decided in T. Devadasan v. Union of India, Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution is seen as a proviso to Article 16(1).
  12. Exceptions:
    Statutes contain exceptions to exempt some things that would otherwise be covered by the main provision. In the event that an exception and the main legislation disagree, the latter shall be relied upon. Nonetheless, exceptions are frequently seen as the legislature's final intention and can help interpret statutes.

    For example, there are five exceptions listed in Section 300 of the IPC.

The nature and parts of statutes are integral components of legal systems worldwide. Statutes serve as authoritative laws enacted by legislative bodies, designed to regulate society and address various issues. They typically consist of several key parts, including the preamble, enactment clause, substantive provisions, and interpretation sections. In conclusion, statutes play a fundamental role in shaping legal frameworks, providing clarity and guidance for both citizens and legal professionals alike in navigating complex legal landscapes.

Statutes form the backbone of legal systems, serving as authoritative laws enacted by legislative bodies. They comprise essential parts such as the preamble, enactment clause, substantive provisions, and interpretation sections. These components collectively provide clarity and guidance, shaping legal frameworks and regulating society. Understanding the nature and structure of statutes is crucial for navigating the complexities of the law, ensuring compliance, and upholding justice in various contexts.

  • Textbook on Interpretation of Statutes by Ravulapati Madhavi
  • The Interpretation of Statutes by Prof. T. Bhattacharyya
  • Interpretation of Statutes by Vepa P. Sarathi

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