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Legal Chaos: Navigating Internal and External Aids in Statutory Interpretation

Interpretation is the process of court to solve the Chaos arising in the statute. It is solved by using Internal aids and External aids. When the problem or confusion is solved by the parts inside the statute then it is called Internal aids. When internal aids fail to solve chaos, courts can turn to external aids outside the statute. Judges refrain from giving personal opinions, as they vary. If external aids are unavailable, it provides a valid reason for the judgment, serving as valuable resources for courts to clarify legislative intent.

Interpretation of statutes is the process to ascertain or determine the meaning of the statutes and legal provision by the judiciary . This process done by the court to ascertain the true expression , nature, meaning of the phrase or word used in that provision. In that process the court examine in which situation and for what purpose the provisions and the statute is made. And also examine the other provisions in that statute. For this purpose Court use the Internal aids and External aids. Internal aids means the court interpret the statute by the aids which are available in the statute itself by the title of the statute, preamble of the statute, marginal notes, headings, illustration, punctuation, provision, schedules, saving clause, Exception.

External aids means the aids which are not available in the statute to ascertain the meaning so the court may seek help from the external aids (outside the statute) like dictionaries, objective of the statute, reason for the statute, text books, constitute Debates and Discussion, legislative debates or speech, Committee reports, foreign laws and decisions for understand the true meaning and expression of the provision or phrase or word used in the statute. But the court should be very careful when interpret the law because the court not involve in the legislative field. Creating the law and changing it's provision is the work of the legislature body so court not involve in that. Let us discuss about this external aids briefly in this paper.

External Aids:
While interpreting the statutes court generally take the internal aids such as preamble, headings etc.� which are available inside the statute to understand the meaning. They also have the liberty to take the external aids. Other than the internal aids to interpretation which is the part of the statute itself other aids which are outside the statute are known as external aids such as dictionaries, textbook, legislative history, practice judicial, administrative and commercial.

Judges frequently turn to intrusive investigation to uphold legislative intent, and a research-oriented pursuit of understanding the words and provisions in statutes will be a continual and ongoing judicial endeavor. For this purpose apart from the source of internal aids court will use the outside the statute which is external aids.

External aids are one of the judicial tools used to ascertain the actual meaning or solve the confusion in the particular provision. This tool is used by the judiciary to solve the problems arising from the meaning of the particular provision by using the external judicial sources apart from that statute when the internal aids are not enough to solve the Chaos in that provision.

However when there is a attempt to canon of interpretation of statutes is like a journey through a jungle we have to take note of everything which are related to that statute, relating the current situation with that statute, effects of the statute, reason for continuing that statute, public opinion about that statute, Background of that statute and the main object of that statute. The Court examine these all sources then if the court thinks, there is necessary for the changes in that statute then it will changed by the proper procedure. And the court will clear the Chaos arising by the particular provision in that statute for its meaning.

Words used in the statute can be interpreted by it's actual meaning. The problem arise by the word can solve by it's ordinary sense. Dictionary is helpful naturally to know the ordinary sense of the word. So the dictionary can be consulted by the courts when there is a need to know the actual meaning of the word. But using the dictionary the court must be careful because the dictionary meaning of the word is not necessary be the true meaning of the word used in the particular context. It is for the court to interpret the statute as best as it may be. The court have no doubt when doing interpretation of statutes. The court can assist themselves to discharge their duty with any literary help they can find, the court can include the consultation of standard authors and authoritative dictionaries.

Dictionaries give diverse meaning of the word. So it is difficult for the court to choose the correct meaning for the word used in that provision. In that circumstances the context in which word has been used becomes very important. The court should always keeps in mind the context in which a word has been used while choosing the correct meaning of the word. When the context make the meaning of the word quite clear then it is unnecessary to search the particular meaning out of the diverse meaning in the dictionaries. Let us advert to some of the expressions of learned justices about this with their aspects.

In the words of Krishna Iyer. J., " Dictionaries are not dictators of statutory construction, where the benignant mood of law, more emphatically, the definition clause furnished a different denotation".

Lord Coleridge said " I am quite aware that dictionaries area not to be taken as authoritative exponents of the meanings of the words used in Acts of Parliament, but it is well-known rule of courts of law that word should be taken to be used in their ordinary sense, and we are therefore sent for instruction to these books."

Text Books:
Text books may be referred by the court to understand the true meaning of an enactment. It is not necessary the view in that text book expressed the view of the court. The court has the opinion to accept and reject the opinion expressed in the text books. Text books like Manu, Yajnavalkya, Vijnaneswar, Jimutvahan and Kautilya are frequently quoted by courts with approval. Text books are the set of multi-disciplinary knowledge of past, present and future. In the most famous Kesavanada Bharati's case, there have been good extracts from our ancient source of law. If the text book not contain the right expression of law, the court have the discretion to reject that view. The courts normally would never hesitate to reject the view of the text book when it is not express the right meaning in the context.

Historical Background:
There will be a history, before the emergence of the word or concept or provision in the law. To know the real and accurate and complete correct meaning of the provision looking into the historical background or historical facts are very important. The court has the liberty to look into the history of the law and legislation.

The court can seek help form the other historical facts. When it is the opinion of the court to look the historical fact is necessary to get the true meaning of an enactment. The court may also consider whether an Act was to change the law or to leave the law when it is undisturbed. In constructing any enactment regards not only to the words used but also the history of the act and reason for the act which led to it being passed. The subject matter of the legislation which was dealing and the facts of the legislation existing at the time of enactment is also consider to ascertain the object and purpose of the Act.

The subject matter of the statute is not fully understood without knowing the surrounding circumstances at that time. If there is any ambiguity arise in any provision looking into the history at that particular time is very essential because in that situation the provision mean something but now due to many economic, technology and social changes that provision is quite complex to understand the efficiency of the provision and for what purpose it is useful.

So the historical facts, surrounding circumstances and the chain of the events which is leading for the introduction of the bill are consider by the court. Historical evolution of a provision in a statute is also useful to guide the court to ascertain the true meaning of the provision. The court are free to look into the earlier state of law to find the true meaning of the act or legislation. This will help to understand the meaning and to solve the confusion arising from the particular provision.

The supreme court stated that "History of legislation and other like external sources may be looked into by a court in case of ambiguity."

In Thomas vs. Lord Clanmoreis, it was held that "Construing any statute regard must be had not only to the words used but to the history of the Act and the reasons which lead to it being passed."

To understand the actual meaning we want to know the intention of the legislature, the state of law and the judicial decisions handed down at that time the statute was being passed are material matters to be consider to solve the ambiguity. So the court in construing a statute refer to the history of the time when it was passed.

Legislative history:
To know the true context in the past the courts used to look into the legislative history of a statute. However, modern perspectives suggest that this practice is impermissible for interpretation. Consequently, legislative debates, reports of select Committees, and statements of objectives and reasons are deemed inadmissible as aids to interpretation. The foundation of this rule appears to be that whatever the legislators intended has already been articulated through words. Moreover, any endeavor by legislators to sway courts with their personal opinions must be opposed.

In Kesavanand Bharati vs. State of Kerala, Sikri C.J. said that speeches made by members of a legislature in the course of debates relating to an enactment of a statute cannot be used as aids for interpreting any of the provisions of the statute. He quoted with approval the famous lines that those who did not speak may not have agreed with those who did; and those who spoke might differ from each other. On the other hand, Justice Shelat, Grover, Jaganmohan Reddy, Palekar and Mathew were of the opinion that speeches in the Constituent Assembly could always be perused to find out the true intention of the framers of the Constitution regarding interpretation of the Constitution of India. It seems that this opinion is limited to the interpretation of the Constitution only and does not apply to other statutes.

Parliamentary History:
English Practice:
The traditional English perspective holds that the intent of the parliament that enacted the act should not be inferred from the parliamentary history of the statute. English courts were reluctant to rely on Parliament or legislative history or interpretation. The contemporary trends suggests that, in interpreting statutes, there is a growing acceptance of considering Parliamentary history with an open-mind approach.

Legislative records like Reports of legislative committees, Official Communication of the Executive related for the enactment of the statute may provide some help to understand the circumstances in the time of enacting the statute. Since the draft contains the whole history of the discussion, deliberation, reason and policy behind the provision that enact. This remembered that these reasons leads to enact this provision or statute.

Indian Experience:
English Courts exclude the Parliamentary history as a aid for the statute. In the beginning, our Apex Court accept the view of the English Court to exclude the Parliamentary history in construction of a statute. But in case of certain ambiguities, the Supreme Court to look into the Parliamentary history with some limits. The Judicial dicta of our Constitutional courts guide us with the following proposition:
  • The intention of the Legislature is to be ascertained not only by the word, phrase, and language of the statute but also by the circumstances, social, political, and historical context existing at the time of the legislation.
  • However, the legislative proceedings are not to be used as an aid to interpret the statute or its provision.
  • At times, the reasons stated by the makers or framers of the enactment may be inconsistent with the facts existing at a given point in time, so the outdated reasons of the original makers who framed it may be discarded.
  • The casual statements of the legislature at the time of discussion are not aids to interpret the statute, but the statements that moved the bill to be introduced must be referred to.
  • Similarly, the report of the select committee is not legitimate material, so it cannot be used as an aid for interpreting the construction, such as finding the meaning of a word; here, the committee's report cannot be used as an aid because it cannot help to find the meaning of the word.
  • The motives of the legislators are not used as an aid in finding the actual meaning of a particular provision or to understand the object of the statute.

In A. K. Gopalan vs State of Madras, the Supreme Court while disallowing a speech to be consider as an aid to interpretation, observed that "a speech made in the course of the debate on a bill could at best be indicate of the subjective intent of the speaker but it could not reflect the inarticulate mental process lying behind the majority vote which carried the bill. Nor is it reasonable to assume that the minds of all those legislators were in accord."

Foreign Judgement:
While dealing with the problem of interpretation of statutes we can take help from some extrinsic aids. The Foreign decisions are one of the Extrinsic aids. Law may be regional but the philosophy of law is Universal. Law is separate from country to country but aim of the law is same in all country. The aim od the law is provide justice to everyone without any discrimination but the rule and procedure for that is vary foe different countries.

Based on their religion, practices, believes it is different. But every countries law's aim is to provide justice to their citizens. There is some substantial unity in the western jurisprudence and our Indian jurisprudence. Indian jurisprudence is made by root of the different countries law, has also absorbed the many popular essential concepts of western thoughts.

We notice that using the foreign court's decisions in our Indian cases without neglect the core content of the Indian jurisprudence. We find very often quotes of foreign decision in Indian cases but the prime importance is given for the Indian statutes, under which circumstances and conditions they are enacted. No doubt, there is a element of risk in taking assistance from the foreign decisions. Foreign decisions are not "compelling decisions" for us but they are consider as "persuasive decisions".

In the pre-constitution period, it was common practice to refer the English decisions. There is no doubt when there is ambiguity arise in any particular provision in the Indian law, English law and precedents has been of valuable assistance.

The Indian Courts are obliged to consider the following factors while considering foreign precedents:
  • Link of the English Common Law and Jurisprudence.
  • Similarity of political thought.
  • The use of English language as authoritative text of Indian statutes.

Purpose of the Act:
It is the duty of the court to view the intention of the legislature and carefully examine the scope of the statutes. No further effect should be given to a statute than its words, so it is necessary to know the purpose of the statute for any interpretation. Before Interpretation the court must look through the purpose of the statute or Act because when there is any ambiguity arise in the Statute it is not only cleared by the meaning of the word or any foreign decisions because the purpose of the statute says the clear and actual use of the statute and words used in that statute. To determine the purpose of the legislature we must look into the circumstances at that time when the law was passed and reason of the Bill to enact it will help to solve the problem arising from the Statute.

Conventions And Practices:
Sir Ivor Jennings says, "Constitutional conventions are broadly defined as rules of political practice which are regarded as binding by those to whom they apply but which are not laws as they are not enforced by the Courts. But they may be an aid to construction, but not positive rule of law breach of which is remediable action."

In S. P. Gupta vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court observed that where a constitution has worked for a reasonably long time convention which ground up relevant to the constitutional provisions or the constitutional practice can be a torch-bearer in ascertaining the intendment of the provisions because area period has been so understood and worked that it can be safely said that it was correctly and wisely understood and accurately applied."

Though administrative practice are not consider as a aid to interpretation generally, but occasionally it has been given weight by the court. On the other hand, Court give much respect to the eminent conveyancers. Commercial practice also called as an important aid to interpretation.

In State vs. Chhadami Lal, while interpreting Section 208 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, the Allahabad High Court held that in case of a clash between a law and an Administrative practice, the law is bound to prevail.

But in Manik Chand vs. State, the Calcutta High Court, while interpreting the pharse police report appearing in Section 207 and 208 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, held that it means a report made by the investigation officer under Section 173 of the Code as has been recognized by the administrative practice.

Over all the External Aids are used to easily understand the particular provision or context or phrase in the statute or legislature when ambiguity is arise. It provide the valuable guidance to understand the meaning of the word and intention of the statute. External aids help to resolve the problem when it is not solved by using the internal aids. External aids are utilized by courts and legal professional to understand the reason of the particular provision and avoid the confusion regarding the meaning of the words or phrase or provision in the statute.

  1. The Interpretation of Statutes � Proof . T. Bhattacharyya
  2. Interpretation of Statutes � Dr . Ravulapati madhavi
  3. Interpretation of statutes � M.P. Tandan
  4. The Book of Interpretation of Statutes - R.D. Srivasta

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