The courts performs a vital role in interpretation of statute by interpreting and constructing the provision of a law which is in conformity with the intention of the legislature. However, where the meaning is not clear, the courts has to take help of various external sources to draw out the exact meaning of the provision of a statute. The external aids are useful in finding true meaning, objective and nature of a provision or a word in a statute. Where the language used in statute is leads to confusion, in that scenario external aids seems to add great help to the courts to understand intention of the legislature. The external sources we will be discussing here are parliamentary debates and the reports of the Law Commission.
In the case of Doypack System(P) Ltd. v. U.O.I the court observed that “dictionaries , earlier Acts, history of legislation, parliamentary history, state of law as it exist when the Act was passed, the mischief sought to be remedied are valid external aids”.
ACCEPTANCE TO EXTERNAL SOURCES
Initially there was a question on the acceptance of the external sources and the credibility of these sources were also not justified. While interpreting a statue various doubts where raised on the reliability of external aids to interpretation.
In the case of A.K Gopalan v. State of Madras the court pointed out that “the external aids are not permissible unless statute was vague or ambiguous. It was settled that proceedings or discussions in assembly, reports, and debates are to be used with great caution and only when latent ambiguity are to be resolved”.
After the 183rd report of Law commission on General Clause Act, the external aids became the intrinsic element and were widely accepted in the interpretation of statues. In the case of State of Punjab v. Sodhi Sukhdev Singh the court said that “the recourse to extrinsic aid in interpreting a statutory provision would be justified only within well recognized limits and primarily the effect of statutory provision must be judged on a fair and reasonable construction of the words used by the statute itself”.
Further in the case of Anandji Hari Das And Co. Pvt Ltd. v. Engg. Majdoor Sangh the court observed “where the language is vague and ambiguous, or does not clearly spell out the object and spirit of the act, external aids in the nature of parliamentary debates, reports of drafting or select committees may be permissible to determine and locate the real intention of the legislature. Thus, external aids are used when a statute is not clear, cloudy, uncertain or susceptible to one or more meanings or shades of meaning”.
When a bill is presented in the parliamentary, it undergoes a great debates and discussions on the validity or meaning of the law which is proposed to be passed through such bill. Earlier, in the course of interpretation of statues, the admissibility of parliamentary debates and speeches were completely inadmissible in the courts. As observed in the case of K.S Pari Pooran v. State of Kerala, the courts held that “the speeches of the members of the parliament are not admissible as extrinsic aid though speech of the mover of the bill can be referred to find out the object untended to be achieved by the bill”.
In the case of State of Mysore v. R.V. Bidap the court observed that “The Rule of Exclusion insists that, in interpreting statutes, the proceedings in the legislature, including speeches delivered when the statute was discussed and adopted, cannot be cited in the courts. But the rule of exclusion has been criticized as artificial and many jurists are of the view that such extrinsic materials should not be decisive but they must be admissible”.
In order to get accent of the parliamentary majority, there are various stages through which a bill in the parliament needs to pass through before it becomes an act. These stages consist of a huge support and criticism which is delivered by various legislative authors. The speeches delivered by the legislative authors are the good and reliable source of external aid to interpretation of statute.
In the case of State of Travancore v. Bombay Co. Ltd. the court held that “a speech made in the course of debate on a bill could at best be indicative 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”.
Recently, in 2017 in the case of “Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen, the court had to interpret Section 123(3) of the Representation of People Act, 1951. The question was whether the word his used in the section refers to the religion of candidate or voters? To resolve this, speech given by then Law Minister A.K. Sen was considered to find out the mischief intended to be remedied. In this manner, statute was constructed to conclude that it refers to candidate’s religion”.
LAW COMMISSION REPORTS
Before a bill is framed and introduced in the legislature, the matter of the bill is often referred to the Law Commission or committees for getting with a view to ascertain their observation and suggestions on the matter which is to be introduced in the legislature in the form of a bill. The commission or committee on such reference conduct a critical examination or a detailed study of the matter and subsequently give their report on that particular matter. These reports may act as a great source to for the courts to ascertain the true meaning of the provision or a phrase of a statute which is in question before such court. The courts often refer to the commissions’ report in the case there is a confusion or ambiguity in the meaning of a provision of an Statute. In the case of “Shriram Chits Ltd. v. U.O.I reference was made to the report of the Banking Committee prepared in 1972, the report of the Select Committee of the Parliament, the report of the study group on Non-Banking Finance Commission, in upholding the reasonableness and validity of the Chit Funds Act. 1982”.
In the case of “ Mithilesh Kumari v. Prem Bihari Khare the report of the Law Commission preceding the enactment of the Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988 was referred to and relied upon. It was observed that where a particular enactment or amendment is the result of the recommendation of the Law Commission of India, it may be permissible to refer to the relevant provision”.
The external aids plays vital role in course of interpretation and construction of any provision or phrase of a an enactment which leads to ambiguity. The external sources such as parliamentary debates and commissions report may boost the courts’ efficiency in the role of interpretation of statutes. Through the detailed study of the aforesaid topic, it is quite apparent herein that the parliamentary debates to a great extent admissible for drawing out the meaning of a provision or phrase as the speech of the legislative author clearly indicate the intention of the legislature behind such enactment. Further the committee and commissions report also has a great importance in interpretation procedure as these reports trace out the historical facts, observations and suggestions which were recommended through such report.
 (1988) 2 SCC 299
 AIR 1950 SC 27
 AIR 1961 SC 1413
 AIR 1975SC 946
 ( 1994 ) 5 SCC 593
 AIR 1952 SC 365
 AIR 1993 SC 2063
 AIR 1989 SC 1247
Author: Lalit Mohan,
Delhi Metropolitan Education,GGSIPU ( 4th year )