General Clauses Act, 1897 – Jurisprudence, Interpretation & General Laws Important Questions
Write a short note on the Objects & importance of the General Clauses Act, 1897.
The General Clauses Act, 1897, may be described as the draftsman’s Act. It is of the utmost importance to him for the purposes of his craft.
Its objects are:
- To shorten the language of statutory enactments.
- To provide for uniformity of expression giving prima facie definitions of a series of terms in common use
- To state explicitly certain common rules of construction.
- To guard against slips and oversights by incorporating by implication into every Act certain standard clauses which otherwise would have to be inserted expressly and which might otherwise have been overlooked.
In short, the value and utility of the General Clauses Act, 1897 are considerable, because it not only constitutes the reference book of the judge when dealing with statutes but also serves as the draftsman’s labor-saving device. It lays down rules which would have been tedious to repeat in every statute, thus shortening the language of legislative enactments.
The General Clauses Act, 1897 belongs to the class of Acts which may be called as ’Interpretation Act’. Comment.
The General Clauses Act, 1897 belongs to the class of Acts which may be called interpretation Acts. In many countries, Legislatures similar to the General Clauses Act are called Interpretation Acts.
An interpretation Act lays down the basic rules as to how courts should interpret the provisions of an Act of Parliament. It also defines certain words or expressions so that there is no unnecessary repetition of the definition of those words in other Acts.
In other words, an Interpretation Act provides a standard set of definitions or extended definitions of words and expressions which are commonly used in legislation. It also provides a set of rules which regulate certain aspects of the operation of other enactments. In addition, there are other provisions that are not merely definitions or rules of construction but substantive rules of law.
State the meaning of ‘Affidavit’ as per the provisions of the General Clauses Act, 1897.
As per Section 3(3) of the General Clauses Act, 1897, ‘Affidavit’ shall include affirmation and declaration in the case of persons by law allowed to affirm or declare instead of swearing.
There are two important points derived from the above definition:
- Affirmation and declaration.
- In case of persons allowed affirming or declaring instead of swearing. The above definition is inclusive in nature. It states that Affidavit shall include affirmation and declarations. This definition does not define affidavit. However, we can understand this term in general parlance. An affidavit is a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation for use as evidence in court or before any authority.
State what do you understand by the term ‘document’ as per the General Clauses Act, 1897? Discuss which of the following will be treated as a document:
(i) Power of attorney
As per Section 3(18) of the General Clauses Act, 1897, “Document” shall include any matter written, expressed or described upon any substance by means of letters, figures or marks, or by more than one of those means which is intended to be used, or which may be used, for the purpose of recording that matter.
Thus, the term “Document” includes any substance upon which any matter is written or expressed by means of letters or figures for recording that matter. For example, book, file, painting, inscription and even computer files are all documents.
Thus, the Power of attorney & ‘cheque’ both are documents within the meaning of Section 2(18) of the General Clauses Act, 1897.
What do you understand by the term ‘movable property’ under the General Clauses Act, 1897?
The movable property has been defined in Section 3(36) of the General Clauses Act, 1897 as “property of every description except immovable property”. The Registration Act, 1908 defines movable property “to include property of every description except immovable property, but including standing timber, growing crops and grass”.
It has to be mentioned that if the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 applies to the transfer of immovable property, the Sale of Goods Act applies to the sale of certain movable property, being goods.
Section 2(7) of the Sale of Goods Act, 1930 defines ‘goods’ to mean every kind of movable property. It is wide enough to include all types of movable property other than what is expressly excluded. If a particular property cannot be termed as goods then the Act does not apply to the same.
According to the General Clauses Act, 1897, things attached to or forming part of the land are treated as immovable property. However, the Sale of Goods Act, 1930 states that they have been agreed to be severed before or under the Contract of sale, and then they become goods.
X owned land with fifty tamarind trees. He sold his land and the timber (obtained after cutting the fifty trees) to Y. X wants to know whether the sale of timber tantamount to the sale of immovable property. Advise him with reference to provisions of the General Clauses Act, 1897.
As per Section 3(26) of the General Clauses Act, 1897, immovable property shall include:
- Benefits to arise out of the land,
- Things attached to the earth, or
- Things permanently fastened to anything attached to the earth.
In Shantabai v. the State of Bombay, it was held that the ‘trees’ are regarded as immovable property because they are attached to or rooted in the earth. However, the trees except the standing timber are immovable property.
Trees are immovable property because trees are benefits arise out of the land and attached to the earth. However, timber is not immovable property as the same are not permanently attached to the earth.
Define the term ‘person’ as per the General Clauses Act, 1897? Discuss which of the following will be treated as a person?
(a) An idol
(b) Public body
(c) A company
As per Section 2(42) of the General Clauses Act, 1897, “Person” shall include any company or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not.
Under section 13 words in the singular prima facie include the plural.
An idol is a juridical person. A public body to be a person need not always be set up by statute. It may be set up by the Government in the exercise of its executive functions.
The person will include a juristic person. For example, an idol or Guru Granth Sahib installed in a public temple or a company.
When enactment is said to have come into operation if the Act has not specified any particular date of its enforcement? Explain with the help of an example as per the provisions of the General Clauses Act, 1897.
According to Section 5 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, where any Central Act has not specifically mentioned a particular date to come into force, it shall be implemented on the day on which it receives the assent of the Governor-General in case of a Central Acts made before the commencement of the Indian Constitution and/or, of the President in case of an Act of Parliament.
Where any central legislation or any regulation enacted after the commencement of the General Clauses Act, 1897 repeals any Act, what shall not be affected by such repeal? [Dec 2019 (4 Marks)]
Effect of repeal [Section 6]: Where this Act or any Central Act or Regulation made after the commencement of this Act, repeals any enactment hitherto made or hereafter to be made, then, unless a different intention appears:
(a) The repeal shall not revive anything not in force or existing at the time at which the repeal takes effect.
(b) The repeal shall not affect the previous operation of any enactment so repealed or anything duly done or suffered thereunder.
(c) The repeal shall not affect any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued, or incurred under any enactment so repealed.
(d) The repeal shall not affect any penalty, forfeiture, or punishment incurred in respect of any offense committed against any enactment so repealed.
(e) The repeal shall not affect any investigation, legal proceeding, or remedy in respect of any such right, privilege, obligation, liability, penalty, forfeiture, or punishment as aforesaid.
Any investigation, legal proceeding, or remedy may be instituted, continued, or enforced, and any such penalty, forfeiture, or punishment may be imposed as if the Repealing Act or Regulation had not been passed.
Excel Ltd. declared a dividend for its shareholder in its AGM held on 30.9.2019. Under the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013, the company is required to pay declared dividends within 30 days from the date of declaration. As per the provisions of the General Clauses Act, 1897, discuss what will be the commencement and termination time for the posting of declared dividends?
As per the provisions of Section 9 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, in any legislation or regulation, it shall be sufficient, for the purpose of excluding the first in a series of days or any other period of time to use the word “from” and for the purpose of including the last in a series of days or any other period of time, to use the word “to”.
Section 127 of the Companies Act, 2013 uses the words, “30 days from”. Thus, in the given situation Excel Ltd. is required to pay declared dividend within
30 days from the date of declaration i.e. from 1,10.2019 to 30.10.2019. In this series of 30 days, 30.9.2019 will be excluded and the last 30th day i.e. 30.10.2019 will be included.
State the provisions of the General Clauses Act, 1897 relating to ‘gender and number’.
Gender and number [Section 13]: In all Central Acts or Regulations, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context:
- Words importing the masculine gender shall be taken to include females; and
- Words in the singular shall include the plural and vice versa.
Example: In order to determine residential status the Income Tax Act, 1961 makes the following provisions:
A person is said to be resident in India if he fulfills any one of the following conditions:
- He is in India for 182 days or more in the previous year.
- He must be in India for 60 days or more in the previous year and 365 days or more in the last 4 previous years.
As per Section 13 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, words importing the masculine gender shall be taken to include females and thus provisions are applicable to ‘males’ as well as ‘females’ even though the word used in the Act is “he”.
As per the provisions of the Companies Act, 2013, a whole-time Key Managerial Personnel (KMP) shall not hold office in more than one company except its subsidiary company at the same time. Referring to Section 13 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, examine whether a whole time KMP can be appointed in more than one subsidiary company?
Section 203(3) of the Companies Act, 2013 provides that whole-time key managerial personnel shall not hold office in more than one company except in its subsidiary company at the same time. With respect to the issue that whether a whole time KMP of holding company be appointed in more than one subsidiary companies or can be appointed in only one subsidiary company.
It can be noted that Section 13 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 provides that the word ‘singular’ shall include the ‘plural’ unless there is anything repugnant to the subject or the context. Thus, a whole-time Key Managerial Personnel (KMP) may hold office in more than one subsidiary company.
Explain the ‘Rule of Harmonious Construction’ for interpretation under General Clause Act, 1997. [Pec 2018 (4 Marks)]
When there is a conflict between two or more provisions of the law they should be followed in such a way that maximum benefit can be obtained and no rule needs to be violated in the process of following another one. It is a sound rule of interpretation that Courts must try to avoid a conflict between the provisions of the Statute.
A statute must be read as a whole and one provision of the Act should be construed with reference to other provisions in the same Act so as to make a consistent enactment of the whole statute. It is the duty of the Courts to avoid conflict between two provisions, and whenever it is possible to do so to construe provisions that appear to conflict so that they harmonize.
Where in an enactment, there are two provisions that cannot be reconciled with each other, they should be so interpreted that, if possible, the effect may be given to both. This is what is known as the “rule of harmonious construction”.
Such a construction has the merit of avoiding any inconsistency or repugnancy either within a section or between a section and other parts of the statute.
Explain the “Rule of Beneficial Construction”. [June 2019 (4 Marks)]
Beneficial construction involves giving the widest meaning possible to the statutes. When there are two or more possible ways of interpreting a section or a word, the meaning which gives relief and protects the benefits which are purported to be given by the legislation should be chosen. A beneficial statute has to be construed in its correct perspective so as to fructify the legislative intent.
Although beneficial legislation does receive liberal interpretation, the Court tries to remain within the scheme and not extend the benefit to those not covered by the scheme. It is also true that once the provision envisages the conferment of benefit limited in point of time and subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions, their non-compliance will have the effect of nullifying the benefit. There should be due stress and emphasis to Directive Principles of State Policy and any international convention on the subject.
There is no set principle of construction that beneficial legislation should always be retrospectively operated although such legislation is either expressly or by necessary intendment not made retrospective.
Further, the rule of interpretation can only be resorted to without doing any violence to the language of the statute. In case of any exception when the implementation of the beneficent act is restricted the Court would construe it narrowly so as not to unduly expand the area or scope of the exception.
The liberal construction can only flow from the language of the act and there cannot be placing of unnatural interpretation on the words contained in the enactment. Also, beneficial construction does not permit the rising of any presumption that protection of widest amplitude must be deemed to have been conferred on those for whose benefit the legislation may have been enacted.
Beneficial Construction of statutes has enormously played an important role in the development and beneficial interpretation of socio-economic legislation and has always encouraged the Indian legislators to make more laws in favor of the backward class of people in India.
Briefly explain the ‘Purposive Rule of Interpretation’ under the General Clauses Act, 1987. [Dec 2019 (4 Marks)]
In Halsbury’s Laws of England, it is stated: Parliament intends that an ‘enactment shall remedy particular mischief and it is therefore presumed that Parliament intends that the court when considering, in relation to the facts of the instant case, which of the opposing constructions of the enactment corresponds to its legal meaning, should find a construction which applies the remedy provided by it in such a way as to suppress that mischief.
The doctrine originates in Haydon’s case where the Barons of the Exchequer resolved that for the sure and true interpretation of all statutes in general (be they penal or beneficial, restrictive or enlarging of the common law), four things are to be discerned and considered:
- What was the common law before the making of the Act;
- What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide;
- What remedy Parliament has resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the commonwealth; and
- The true reason for the remedy.