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Classification Of Statutes

In order to study the classification of statute one must know what are statutes and then its classification etc. Black LAW Dictionary defines the term 'statutes' as a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a country, state or city.

The Constitution of India does not define the term Statute. Instead it uses the term "Law". The term law is defined in Article-13(3) (a) as to include any ordinances, order, bye-law, rule, regulation, notification, custom, or usage having force of law. Itwould be appropriate to say that statute is the will of Indian Legislature. Indian statute is the act of Central or State legislature. Statues also include laws passed by Provincial Legislature in Pre- Independence days as well as regulations. Statutes are rules made by legislative bodies; they are distinguished from case law or precedents, which is decided by courts and regulations issued by government agencies.

The term statute is also used to refer to an International treaty that establishes an institution, such as the Statute of the European Central Bank, a protocol to the international courts as well, such as the Statute of the International Court of Justice and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Statute is also another word for law. The term was adapted from England in about the 18th century. A statue may be classified with reference to its duration, nature of operation, object and extent of application.

Classification with reference to duration such a mode classifies a statute as:
  1. Temporary statute
  2. Permanent statute.

A temporary statute is one which where its period of operation and validity has been fixed by the statute itself. Such an act continues in force unless repealed earlier, until the time so fixed. After the expiry of the act if the legislature wishes to continue it, a new enactment is required. The Finance Act is the temporary act and is required to be passed every year. Whereas, a permanent statute is one where no such period has been mentioned but this does not make the statute unchangeable but such statue may be amended or repealed by another act.

Classification with reference to method such mode classifies a statute as:
  1. Mandatory, Imperative or Obligatory statute.
  2. Directory or Permissive statute.

A mandatory statute is one which compels performance of certain things or compels that certain things must be done in a certain manner or form. A directory statute merely directs or permits a thing to be done without compelling its performance. In some cases, the conditions or forms prescribed by statute have been regarded as essential to the act or thing regulated by it and their omission has been held fatal to its validity. In others such prescriptions have been considered as merely directory, the neglect of them involving nothing more than liability to a penalty if any were imposed, for breach of enactment.

In H.V. Kamath v. Ahmad Ishaque it was held that mandatory provision has to be strictly observed whereas substantial compliance of a directory provision is enough.

Classification with reference to object:
A statute may be classified with reference to its object as:
  1. Codifying Statute
    A codifying statute is one which codifies the law, or in other words which purports to state exhaustively the whole of law upon a specific subject. The code contains the pre- existing provisions in different statute on the subject as well as the common law on it. For instance, the Bill of Exchange Act 1882 in England is an act to codify the law relating to Bills of Exchange, Cheques and Promissory notes.

    The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is a codifying statue with respect to intestate succession among Hindus. The foremost purpose of the codifying statute is to present an orderly and authoritative statement of the leading rules of the law on a given subject whether those rules are to be found in a statute or common law.
  2. Consolidating Statute
    A consolidating statute is one which consolidates the law on a particular subject at one place; it collects all statutory enactments on a specific subject and gives them the shape of one statue with minor amendments if necessary. For example in England the Law of Property act 1925which consolidates the acts of 1922 and 1924 is a consolidating act.

    Similarly in Australia the New South Wales Justice act, 1902 is a consolidating act. In India the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is consolidating statute relating to criminal procedure. A consolidating statute may not be a mere compilation of earlier statute. The purpose of consolidating act is to present the whole body of statutory law in a subject in a complete from repealing the earlier acts.
  3. Declaratory statute
    It is a statute which removes doubts either in the common law or statutory law. Passing of a declaratory statute becomes desirable when certain expressions in common law or statutes are being misunderstood. This may happen, for instance where the courts have been interpreting a particular expression as connoting a specific meaning which the legislature feels is a wrong notion of the expression.

    In such cases the legislature may pass a declaratory statute declaring the correct meaning of that expression. In the case of The Central Bank of Indiav. Their Workman, it was held that a declaratory statute contains a preamble and also the word declared as well as the word enacted. Mere use of the expression 'it is hereby declared' does not necessarily make the statute a declaratory statute. In India, the Income Tax (amendment) Act, 1985 which added explanation 2 to section 40 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and the Finance Act, 1987 amending the definition of "Owner of house property" in section 27 are declaratory acts.
  4. Remedial statute
    A remedial is one whereby a new favour or a new remedy is conferred. The main object of passing such a statute is to make improvements in the enforcement of one's rights or for redress of wrongs and remove defects or mistakes in the former law. Some illustrations of remedial statutes are the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 and the Workmen's compensation act 1923. In remedial acts the words "for remedy whereof" have been used immediately before the language of the enactment.

    Blackstone holds the view that remedial statutes could be enlarging as well as restraining. The acts could be enlarging when narrow common law was widened or restraining when existing common law right was cut down. In Central Railway Workshop, Jhansi v. Vishwanath, it was held that all the legislations in a welfare state is enacted with the object of promoting general welfare, but certain types of enactments are more responsive to some urgent social demands and also have more immediate and visible impact on social vices by operating more directly to achieve social reforms.
  5. Enabling statute.
    According to Craies, "many statutes have been passed to enable something to be done which was previously forbidden by law, with or without prescribing the way it is to be done". An enabling statute is one which enlarges the common law where it is narrow. It makes doing of something lawful which would not be otherwise lawful.

    In Bidi, Bidi Leaves and Tobacco Merchants Association v. State of Bombay, it was held that by an enabling act the legislature enables something to be done. It empowers at the same time by necessary implications to do the indispensable things for carrying out the object of the legislature. The conditions which have been put by an enabling act for the public good must be compiled with as they are indispensable. Section 49-A (1) and 49-A (2) of the Advocates act 1961 as amended by act 21 of 1964 is an example of enabling act.
  6. Disabling statute
    A disabling statute is one which restricts or cuts down a right conferred by the common law. An act restraining a common law right is a disabling act.
  7. Penal Statute
    A penal statute is one which punishes certain acts or wrong. Such Statute may be in the form of a comprehensive criminal code or large number of sections providing punishment for different wrongs for example - Criminal Procedure Code, Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Food Adulteration act, 9154, Arms act 1959.

    The penalty for disobedience may be in the form of fine, forfeiture of property, imprisonment, death sentence etc. Where the obedience to law is enforced not by an individual action but by a command of the law in the form of punishment the statute is penal. A penalty can be imposed only when the letter of the law says so unambiguously and any doubt has to be resolved in favour of the alleged offender.
  8. Taxing Statute
    According to Lord Halsbury and Lord Simonds stated:
    "The subject is not to be taxed without clear words for that purpose; and also that every Act of Parliament must be read according to the natural construction of its words."

    A taxing statute is one which imposes taxes on income or certain other kinds of transaction. It may be in the form of income tax, wealth tax, sales tax, gifts tax etc. It is a source of revenue generation for the state. The money so collected is utilized for welfare of the people. Tax can be levied only when a statute unequivocally so provides by using express language to that effect and any doubts is resolved in favour of the assessee.
  9. Explanatory Statute.
    An explanatory statute is one which explains a law. In Keshavlal v. Mohanlal, it was held that an explanatory statute is enacted with the view to supply an apparent omission or to clarify ambiguity as to the meaning of an expression used in the previous statute. An act enacted for the express purpose of explaining or clearing the doubts as to the meaning of a previous Act is an act of explanation or an explanatory statute. For instance the Royal Mines Act, 1688 in Britain was passed to encourage mining certain base metals with Royal Mines act 1963 was enacted for better explanation of the earlier act. The latter is an example of explanatory statute.
  10. Amending Statute.
    An amending statute is one which makes an addition to or operates to change the original law so as to effect an improvement therein or to more effectively carry out the purpose for which the original law was passed.9 An amending statute cannot be called a repealing statute. It is a part of law it amends. Direct Taxes Amendments act 1974; Direct Taxes Amendments acts 1986, Land Acquisition (amendments) 1984 are examples of amending statute.
  11. Repealing Statute.
    A repealing statute is one which repeals an earlier statute. This revocation or termination may be express or explicit language of the statute or it may be necessary implications also. For example The Hyderabad District Municipalities Act, 1956 was a repealing act which repealed the Hyderabad Municipal and Town Committees Act 1951.
  12. Curative or validating Statute.
    A curative or validating statute is one which is passed to cure defects in prior law, or to validate legal proceedings, instruments or acts of public and private administrative authorities which in the absence of such an act would be void for want of conformity with existing legal requirements but which would have been valid if the statute had so provided at the time of enacting. A validating legislation normally contains the expression notwithstanding any judgment, decree or order of any court. The purpose is just to validate some actions which would be otherwise be unlawful or which may have been declared invalid by a court.

In Amarendra Kumar Mohapatra and others v. State of Orissa and others,
The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India with respect to Articles- 254, 254, and 50 of the constitution while adjudication of rights is essentially a judicial function, the power to validate an invalid law or to legalize an illegal action is within the exclusive province of legislature. Exercise of that power by the legislature is not therefore an encroachment on judicial power of the court.

But when the validity of such validation act is in question the Court would have to carefully examine the law and  determine whether:
  1. The vice of invalidity that rendered the act rule, proceedings or action invalid has been cured by the validating legislation,
  2. Whether the legislature was competent to validate the act action proceedings or rule declared invalid in the previous judgments and
  3. Whether such validation is consistent with the rights guaranteed in part III of the constitution.
It is only when the answer to three questions is in the affirmative that the validation act can be held to be effective.

To conclude the above mentioned things it would be appropriate that each and every statute has its specifications and are enacted for the welfare of the citizens. The biggest statute which governs our country and portrays the adequate standard of living as well as provides remedies to approach to Hon'ble Supreme Court of India whenever there is violation of fundamental rights i.e. basic rights guaranteed to each and every citizens of India without any discrimination, is our Constitution of India.

The most important thing is that all the laws are interconnected with the Constitution of India. Whenever a statue is being prepared in India by the legislature, the foremost thing which is inscribed in the minds of the legislature that the statute which they are preparing does not violate the provisions mentioned in the Constitution of India otherwise it will be declared unconstitutional. There must be a nexus between the Indian constitution and that particular statute in order to get it implemented in India and the very same thing applies to pre-constitutional laws, customs etc. If anything is contrary in the pre-constitution with the constitution of India, it will be declared unconstitutional.

The very unique feature of our Constitution is that there are doctrines and test mentioned in Article-13 and Article-14, on which a new law or an old customs is tested even if there is slightest possibility of violation of fundamental rights. They are doctrine of severability, eclipse, waiver, territorial nexus and test of intelligible differentia mentioned in Art. 14 of the Indian constitution and also there is a test popularly known as test of proportionality being implemented by the Hon'ble SC to check the law in its cases whenever there is violation and the law is contrary to the fundamental rights.

  • Black Henry Campbell (1990), Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition.
  • Maxwell, Interpretation of Statutes, Twelfth Edition, p.314.
  • AIR 1955 SC 233.
  • Haksbury, Laws if England, 3rd Vol.36, p. 366
  • The Central Bank of India v. Their Workman, AIR 1960 SC 12
  • Central Railway Workshop, Jhansi v. Vishwanath, AIR 1970 SC 488
  • AIR 1962 SC 486
  • AIR 1968 SC 1336.
  • Crawford ,Statutory Construction, p.11
  • Sutherland , Statutory Construction, Volume 2
  • AIR 2014 SC 1716.
  • Interpreting Statutes - D. Neil Macormick And Rober S.Summers.
  • The Interpretation of Statutes - Prof. T Bhattacharya Eleventh Edition
Written By:
  1. Syed Zainul Hasan Rizvi -Vth Year Law Student of Unity P.G. and Law College Lucknow.
  2. Simran Jamal - IVth Year Law Student of Babu Banarsi Das University Lucknow.

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