Internal Aids to Construction
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This article is written by Shiva Satiya from Panjab University.

An ‘Aid’ is a device that helps or assists. While performing the function of interpreting provision of a statute, the court can take help from within the statute or even outside the statute.

The former is called ‘internal aids’ and the latter is called ‘external aids’.

The internal aids include title, preamble, headings, marginal notes, illustrations, punctuations, proviso, definition or interpretation clauses, explanations, schedules and punctuation. 

Title

Short title

The short title of the Act is only its name and is given solely for the purpose of facility of reference. 

It is merely a name given for identification of the Act and not for description and generally ends with the year of passing of the Act, such as the Indian Contract Act, 1872, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Even though it is a part of the statute, it has no role to play while interpreting a provision of the Act. Neither can it extend nor can it delimit the clear meaning of a particular provision.

Long title

A statute is headed by a long title whose purpose is to give a general description about the object of the act. Normally, it begins with the words An Act to…

For instance, the long title of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 says: An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to criminal procedure, and that of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 says: ‘An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to the prevention of corruption and matters connected therewith’.

In the olden days the long title was not considered a part of the statute and was, therefore, not considered an aid while interpreting it. 

There has been a change in the thinking of courts in recent times and there are numerous occasions when help has been taken from the long title to interpret certain provisions of the statute but only to the extent of removing confusions and ambiguities. If the words in a statute are unambiguous, no help is derived from the long title.

In Poppatlal Shah v. State of Madras, AIR 1953 SC 274- the title of the Madras General Sales Tax, 1939, was utilised to indicate that the object of the Act is to impose taxes on sales that take place within the province.

In the case of Amarendra Kumar Mohapatra v. State of Orissa AIR 2014 SC 1716- the Court has held that the title of a statute determines the general scope of the legislation, but the true nature of any such enactment has always to be determined not on the basis of the label given to it but on the basis of its substance.

In Manoharlal v. State of Punjab AIR 1961 SC 418- it was held that no doubt the long title of the Act extracted by the appellant’s counsel indicates the main purposes of the enactment but it cannot control the express operative provisions of the Act. 

In Fisher v. Raven 1964 AC 210 (HL) 

  • Interpretation of the words ‘obtained credit’ in Section 13(1) of the Debtor’s Act, 1869 was involved. 
  • The House of Lords looked at the long title of the Act which reads ‘An Act for the Abolition of Imprisonment for Debt, for the punishment of fraudulent debtors, and for other purposes’ and held that the words refer to credit for the payment of money.

Limitations of Title as Internal Aid to Construction

  • Title has no role to play where the words employed in the language are plain and precise and bear only one meaning.
  • Title can be called in aid only when there is an ambiguity in the language giving rise to alternative construction.
  • Title cannot prevail over the clear meaning of an enactment.
  • Title cannot be used to narrow down or restrict the plain meaning of the language of the statute.

Preamble

The Preamble to the Act contains the aims and objectives sought to be achieved, and is therefore, part of the Act. It is a key to unlock the mind of the law makers.

Therefore, in case of any ambiguity or uncertainty, the preamble can be used by the courts to interpret any provision of that statute. But there is a caution here. The apex court has held in Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic Vishwavidyalaya v. State of M.P. AIR (2013) 15 SCC 677– the court cannot have resort to preamble when the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous.

Similarly it has been held that help from preamble could not be taken to distort clear intention of the legislature– Burrakar Coal Company v. Union of India AIR 1961 SC 954.

In re Kerala Education Bill, 1957, it was observed that the policy and purpose of the Act can be legitimately derived from its preamble.

In Global Energy Ltd. v. Central Electricity Regulatory Commission– it was held that the object of legislation should be read in the context of the Preamble.

In Maharashtra Land Development Corporation v. State of Maharashtra, it was held that Preamble of the Act is a guiding Light to its interpretation.

Another important example is found in Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461– wherein the apex court strongly relied on the Preamble to the Constitution of India in reaching a conclusion that the power of the Parliament to amend the constitution under Article 368 was not unlimited and did not enable the Parliament to alter the Basic Structure of the Constitution.

In A.C. Sharma v. Delhi Administration AIR 1973 SC 913  

  • In this case, the appellant challenged his conviction under Section 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947.
  • His main ground was that after the establishment of the Delhi Special Police Establishment, the anti-corruption department of the Delhi Police has ceased to have power of investigating bribery cases because the preamble of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 pointed out to this effect.
  • The court, however, held that no preamble can interfere with clear and unambiguous words of a statue.
  • Section 3 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment, 1946 empowered the Delhi Special Police also to investigate such cases.

In Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh v. NTC (South Maharashtra), the Supreme Court while interpreting certain provisions of the Textile Undertakings (Take over of Management) Act, 1983 held that when the language of the Act is clear, preamble cannot be invoked to curtail or restrict the scope of an enactment.

Limitations of Preamble as Internal Aid to Construction

  • Preamble can be resorted to only when the language of a provision is reasonably capable of alternative construction.
  • Preamble cannot either restrict or extend the meaning and scope of the words used in the enacting part.
  • In case of conflict between Preamble and a section, the preamble would succumb and section shall prevail.
  • Preamble cannot be regarded as source of any substantive power or of any prohibition or limitation.

Marginal Notes

Marginal notes are those notes which are inserted at the side of the sections in the Act and express the effect of the sections. These are also known as side notes.

In the olden times help used to be taken sometimes from the marginal notes when the clear meaning of enactment was in doubt. But the modern view of the courts is that marginal notes should have no role to play while interpreting a statute. 

The basis of this view is that the marginal notes are not parts of a statute because they are not inserted by the legislators nor are they printed in margin under the instructions or authority of the legislature. These notes are inserted by the drafters and many times they may be inaccurate too. 

However, there may be exceptional circumstances where marginal notes are inserted by the legislatures and, therefore, while interpreting such an enactment help can be taken from such marginal notes. The Constitution of India is such a case. The marginal notes were inserted by the Constituent Assembly and, therefore, while interpreting the Indian Constitution, it is always permissible to seek guidance and help from the marginal notes.

In Bengal Immunity Company v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court held that the marginal notes to Article 286 of the Constitution was a part of the Constitution and therefore, it could be relied on for the interpretation of that Article.

In Tara Prasad Singh v. Union of India, it was held that marginal notes to a section of the statute cannot take away the effect of the provisions.

In Union of India v. Dileep Kumar Singh AIR 2015 SC 1420 – the apex court held that marginal note appended to Section 47 of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1955 makes it clear that idea of section 47 was not to discriminate against employees who acquire disability during service.

In S.P. Gupta v. President of India 

  • The Supreme Court held that if the relevant provisions in the body of a statute firmly point towards a construction which would conflict with the marginal note, the marginal note has to yield.
  • If there is any ambiguity in the meaning of the provisions in the body of the statute, the marginal note may be looked into as an aid to construction.

Limitations of Marginal Notes as Internal Aid to Construction

  • Marginal notes are very rarely used for interpretation as they are not considered to be a good aid to construction.
  • Only those marginal notes can be used for construing a provision which have been inserted with assent of the legislature.
  • Marginal notes can be called in aid only when language suffers from ambiguity and more than one construction is possible.
  • Marginal notes cannot frustrate the effect of a clear provision.

Headings

In all modern statutes, generally headings are attached to almost each section, just preceding the provisions. For example, the heading of Section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is “When bail may be taken in case of non- bailable offence”.

Headings are not passed by the Legislature but they are subsequently inserted after the Bill has become law.

Headings are of two kinds- one which are prefixed to a section and the other which are prefixed to a group or set of sections. These headings have been treated by courts as preambles to those sections or set of sections. 

Naturally, the rules applicable to the preamble are followed in case of headings also while interpreting an enactment. Therefore, if the plain meaning of enactment is clear, help from headings cannot be taken by the courts.

However, if more than one conclusion are possible while interpreting a particular provision, the courts may seek guidance from the headings to arrive at the true meaning.

A heading to one set of sections cannot act as an aid to interpret another set of sections– Shelly v. London County Council, 1949 AC 56

But chapter heading can be used to interpret ambiguous provisions– Bullmer v. I.R.C. 

In Sarah Mathew v. Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases, it was held that sectional headings have a limited role to play in the construction of statutes. The heading of Ch. XXXVI, Cr.P.C. is not an indicator that the date of taking cognizance is the date on which limitation period commences.

In Novartis Ag. v. Union of India, the sectional headings were relied on while interpreting Section 5, 3(d), 2(1) (j) and (ja) and 83 of the Patents Act, 1970.

In Union of India v. ABN Amro Bank 

  • It was held that the heading of a section can be regarded as key to interpretation of the operative portion of said section. 
  • If there is no ambiguity in the language of the provision or if it is plain and clear, then heading used in said section strengthens that meaning.

In N.C. Dhoundial v. Union of India, it was held that “Heading” can be relied upon to clear the doubt or ambiguity in the interpretation of the provision and to discern the legislative intent.

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Limitations of Headings as Internal Aid to Construction

  • Headings can neither cut down nor extend the plain meaning and scope of the words used in the enacting part.
  • Headings cannot control the clear and plain meaning of the words of an enactment.

Illustrations

Illustrations are sometimes appended to a section of a statute with a view to illustrate the provision of law explained therein. A very large number of Indian Acts have illustrations appended to various sections.

They being the show of mind of the legislature are a good guide to find out the intention of the farmers. But an enactment otherwise clear cannot be given an extended or a restricted meaning on the basis of illustrations appended therein.

The Supreme Court in Mahesh Chand Sharma v. Raj Kumari Sharma observed that illustration is a part of the section and it helps to elucidate the principle of the section.

However, illustrations cannot be used to defeat the provision or to modify the language of the section. This is reflected by a legal maxim “Exampla illustrant, non-restringent legem” which means examples only illustrate but do not narrow the scope of rule of a law.

In Mudliyar Chatterjee v. International Film Co., it was observed that in construing a section, an illustration cannot be ignored or brushed aside.

In Mohommed Sydeol Ariffin v. Yeah Ooi Gark, it was held that the illustrations are of relevance and value in the construction of the text of the section, although they donot form part of the section. Therefore, they should not be readily rejected as repugnant to the sections.

Exceptions and Saving Clauses 

Exceptions are generally added to an enactment with the purpose of exempting something which would otherwise fall within the ambit of the main provision. 

For instance, there are ten exceptions attached to section 499, IPC which defines ‘Defamation’. These ten exceptions are the cases which do not amount to defamation.

Similarly there are five exceptions attached to section 300 of the Indian Penal Code which defines ‘murder’. These five exceptions are the cases which are not murders but culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

An exception affirms that the things not exempted are covered under the main provision. 

In case a repugnancy between an operative part and an exception, the operative part must be relied on. 

Some decisions have, however, been given on the principle that an exception, being the latter will of the legislature, must prevail over the substantive portion of the enactment. 

In Director of Secondary Education v. Pushpendra Kumar, the Supreme Court held that a provision in the nature of an exception cannot be so interpreted as to subserve the main enactment and thereby nullify, the right conferred by the main enactment. 

In Collector of Customs v. M/s. Modi Rubber Limited, the Supreme Court held that whenever there is a provision in the nature of an exception to the principal clause thereof; it must be construed with regard to that principal clause.

Saving clauses are generally appended in cases of repeal and re-enactment of a statute. 

By this the rights already created under repealed enactment are not disturbed nor new rights are created by it. A saving clause is normally inserted in the repealing statute. 

In case of a clash between the main part of statute and a saving clause, the saving clause has to be rejected. 

In Shah Bhojraj Kuverji Oil Mills v. Subhash Chandra Yograj Sinha, the Supreme Court did not allow the use of a saving clause, which was enacted like a proviso, to determine whether a section in an Act was retrospective in operation.

In Agricultural and Processed Food Products v. Union of India, the Supreme Court while interpreting the saving clause in the Export Control Order, 1988 held that the clause only saved the rights which were in existence before the order was issued and it did not confer any new rights which were not in existence at that time.

Schedules

Schedules attached to an Act generally deals with as to how claims or rights under the Act are to be asserted or as to how powers conferred under the Act are to be exercised. The Schedules are appended towards the end of the enactment.

Sometimes, a schedule may contain some subjects in the form of a list as is the case with the Constitution of India to enable the Union and the states to legislate in their respective fields.

Schedules are parts of the Statute itself and may be looked into by the courts for the purpose of interpreting the main body of the statute.

Similarly, while interpreting the schedules help may always be taken from the main body of the Act to find out the true spirit of the Act. 

Sometimes, a schedule may contain transitory provisions also to enable an Act to remain in existence till the main provisions of the Act begin to operate, such as the Ninth Schedule of the Government of India Act, 1935. 

In M/s. Aphali Pharmaceuticals Limited v. State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court held that in case of a clash between the schedule and the main body of an Act, the main body prevails and the schedule has to be rejected. 

In Jagdish Prasad v. State of Rajasthan and others, the Supreme Court ruled that the purpose of a schedule is to advance the object of the main provision and deletion of schedule cannot wipe out provisions of an Act in effect and spirit. 

Punctuation

In ancient times, statutes were passed without punctuation and naturally, therefore, the courts were not concerned with looking at punctuation. 

But in modern times statutes contain punctuation. Therefore, whenever a matter comes before the courts for interpretation, the courts first look at the provision as they are punctuated and if they feel that there is no ambiguity while interpreting the punctuated provision, they shall so interpret it. 

However, while interpreting the provision in the punctuated form if the court feels repugnancy or ambiguity, the court shall read the whole provision without any punctuation and if the meaning is clear will so interpret it without attaching any importance whatsoever to the punctuation. 

In Aswini Kumar v. Arabinda Bose, the Supreme Court held that a punctuation cannot be regarded as a controlling element and cannot be allowed to control the plain meaning of a text. 

Therefore, in Shambhu Nath Sarkar v. State of West Bengal, the Supreme court held that the word ‘which’ used twice in Article 22(7) of the Constitution, followed by a comma after each, was to be read conjunctively because the context so required.

In Mohammad Shabbir v. State of Maharashtra

  • Interpretation of Section 27 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 was in question. 
  • This provision says that whoever ‘manufactures for sale, sells, stocks or exhibits for sale or distributes’ a drug without licence would be liable to punishment. 
  • The Supreme Court held that mere stocking of a drug is not an offence and an offence is made out only when stocking is for sale. 
  • There is no comma after the word ‘stocks’ which means that the words ‘stocks or exhibits’ are both qualified by the words ‘for sale’ used thereafter. 

In Dadaji v. Sukhdeobabu, the Supreme Court held that the punctuation marks by themselves do not control the meaning of a statute where its meaning is otherwise obvious. 

In the English case of I.R.C. v. Hinchy, it was held that it is very doubtful if punctuation marks can be looked at for the purposes of construction. 

In Bihar SEE v. Pulak Enterprises, it was held that punctuation mark (comma) is a minor element in the interpretation of statute, especially in case of subordinate legislation.

In Director of Public Prosecution v. Schildkamp, LORD REID agreed that punctuation can be of some assistance in construction. 

Limitations of Punctuation Marks as Internal Aid to Construction

  • Some jurists have opined that punctuation marks are of no use as internal aids to construction and it is an error to rely on punctuation marks in construing the Acts of Legislature.
  • Presence of comma or absence of comma must be disregarded if it is contrary to plain intention of the statute.

Explanations 

Explanations are inserted with the purpose of explaining the meaning of a particular provision and to remove doubts which might creep up if the explanation had not been inserted. 

It does not expand the meaning of the provision to which it is added but only ties to remove confusion, if any, in the understanding of the true meaning of the enactment. 

A large number of Indian Acts have explanations attached to various sections. For instance, Section 108 of the Indian Penal Code which defines the word ‘abettor’ has five explanations attached to it. Sometimes, explanations are inserted not at the time of enactment of a statute but at a later stage. For instance, the two explanations to Section 405 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines the crime of ‘Criminal breach of trust’, were inserted in 1973 and 1975 respectively. 

There may be a case where in spite of many clauses in a section only one explanation is attached to the section as is the case with Section 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. In such a case it must be seen as to which clause the explanation is connected with– Patel Roadways limited v. Prasad Trading Company

In Bengal Immunity Company v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court has observed that an explanation is a part of the section to which it is appended and the whole lot should be read together to know the true meaning of the provision.

In Bihta Co-operative Development Cane Marketing Union v. State of Bihar, the Supreme Court said that in case of a conflict between the main provision and the explanation attached to it, the general duty of the court is to try to harmonise the two. 

In S. Sundaram v. V.R. Pattabhiraman, the Supreme Court observed that it is now well settled that an explanation added to a statutory provision is not a substantive provision in any sense of the term but as the plain meaning of the word itself shows it is merely meant to explain or clarify certain ambiguities which may have crept in the statutory provision. 

The object of an explanation to a statutory provision is: 

  • to explain the meaning and intendment of the Act itself; 
  • where there is any obscurity or vagueness in the main enactment, to clarify the same so as to make it consistent with the dominant object which it seems to subserve; 
  • to provide additional support to the dominant object of the Act in order to make it meaningful and purposeful.

An explanation cannot in any way interfere with or change the enactment of any part thereof but where some gap is left which is relevant for the purpose of the explanation, in order to suppress the mischief and advance the object of the Act it can help or assist the court in interpreting the true purport and intendment of the enactment, and it cannot, however, take away a statutory right with which any person under a statute has been clothed or set at naught the working of the Act by becoming an hindrance in the interpretation of the same. 

In M.K. Salpekar v. Sunil Kumar Shamsunder Chaudhari, the Supreme Court observed that where a provision is related to two kinds of accommodation—residential and non-residential, and the explanation attached to it refers to only residential accommodation, it cannot control non-residential accommodation and, therefore, cannot be looked into in matters connected with the latter. 

Limitation of Explanation as Internal Aid to Construction

  • Explanation cannot have the effect of modifying the language of section.
  • Explanation cannot control the plain meaning of words of the section.

Definition or Interpretation Clauses

Definition or interpretation clauses are generally included in a statute with the purpose of extending the natural meaning of some words as per the definition given or to interpret such words, the meanings of which are not clear, by assigning them the meaning given in the definition clause. 

Generally, the meaning given to a particular word in the interpretation clause will be given to that word wherever it is used in that statute. 

The only exception to this rule is that if the court feels that in the context of a particular provision the definition clause, if applied will result in an absurdity, the court will not apply the definition clause while interpreting that provision. 

Similarly, the definition clause of one Act cannot be used to explain the same word used in another statute. However, if both the statutes are in pari materia and the word has been defined in one Act, the same meaning may be assigned to the word in the other Act also. 

Whenever the words means or means and includes are used in the definition clause, they afford an exhaustive explanation of the word in the statute. 

The language in which both words ‘includes and shall not include’ are used, such definitions are inclusive and exclusive.

The word includes is generally used in the definition clause to enlarge the ordinary and natural meaning of that particular word. 

In M/s. Hamdard (Wakf) Laboratories v. Deputy Labour Commissioner, the Supreme Court observed that when an interpretation clause uses the word ‘includes’, it is prima facie extensive. 

When it uses the words ‘means and includes’, it will afford an exhaustive explanation to the meaning which for the purposes of the Act must invariably be attached to the word or expression. 

In Ramanlal Bhailal Patel v. State of Gujarat, the Supreme Court observed that the use of the word ‘includes’ indicates an intention to enlarge the meaning of the word used in the statute. 

The use of the word denotes in the interpretation clause shows that the expressions denoted therein are covered within the ambit of that particular word. 

The expression deemed to be in the interpretation clause creates a fiction. The use of the phrase that is to say in the definition clause is illustrative of the meaning and not restrictive.

In State of Bombay v. Hospital Mazdoor Sabha, the JJ Group of Hospitals was held by the Supreme Court an industry within the meaning of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. The court observed that Section 2 (J) of the Act of 1947 is an inclusive definition clause and is, therefore, liable to be interpreted in an extended way and not in a restrictive way. 

In State of Madhya Pradesh v. Saith and Skelton Private Limited, the Supreme Court, while interpreting the word ‘Court’ in Section 14 (2) of the Arbitration Act, 1940, held that its meaning given in Section 2 (c) of the Act that it means a Court which would entertain a suit on the subject-matter, cannot be accepted in the light of the context, and that ‘Court’ in the present instance must mean a court which appoints the arbitrator. 

The Supreme Court in Jagir Singh v. State of Bihar 

  • Was seized of the question of interpreting the word ‘owner’ in the Bihar Taxation on Passengers and Goods (Carried by Public Service Motor Vehicles) Act, 1961 which defined it as the owner and includes bailee of a public carrier vehicle or any manager acting on the owners behalf. 
  • The Court held that the use of the word includes gives a wider concept to the word and so it means the actual owner as well as the others included in the definition. 

In Commissioner of Income-Tax, Madras, v. G.R. Karthikeyan 

  • The question was whether prize money received by a participant in a motor rally was ‘income’ within the premise of Section 2 (24) of the Income-tax Act, 1961. 
  • The Supreme Court held that several clauses in Section 2 (24) were not exhaustive in nature and, therefore, money received under any new head not covered under the provision is income and so subject to income-tax under the law. 

In Lucknow Development Authority v. M.K. Gupta, the Supreme Court ruled that: 

  • ‘Housing construction’ comes within the meaning of ‘service’ as defined in section 2(o) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, even though the provision gives an inclusive definition of the word ‘service.
  • In the aftermath of the case, the Parliament amended the section and expressly included ‘housing construction’ in ‘service’.

In Delhi Judicial Service Association v. State of Gujarat 

  • The words “including the power to punish for contempt of itself” occurring in Article 129 of the Constitution of India were construed by the Supreme Court. 
  • This Article declares the Supreme Court to be a Court of Record. 
  • It was held that these words do not limit the inherent power of the Supreme Court to punish for contempt of itself as also of subordinate courts. 

Proviso

In some sections of a statute, after the main provision is spelled out, a clause is added, with the opening words “provided that…”.

The part of the section commencing with the words “Provided that…” is called Proviso.

A proviso is a clause which is added to the statute to accept something from enacting clause or to limit its applicability. 

As such, the function of a proviso is to qualify something or to exclude, something from what is provided in the enactment which, but for proviso, would be within the purview of enactment. 

The general rule about the interpretation of a proviso is that proviso is not to be taken absolutely in its strict literal sense but is of necessity limited to the ambition of the section which it qualifies.

The court is not entitled to add words to a proviso with a view to enlarge its scope. The proviso must reasonably be conveyed by the words used therein.

Where the proviso is directly repugnant to a section, the proviso shall stand and be held a repeal of the section as the proviso speaks the latter intention of the makers.

The real nature and function of a proviso has been effectively laid down in following case laws:

In Union of India v. Sanjay Kumar Jain, the function of proviso was declared that it qualifies or carves out an exception to the main provision.

In Vishesh Kumar v. Shanti Prasad, the Supreme Court held that a proviso cannot be permitted by construction to defeat the basic intent expressed in the substantive provision.

In Union of India v. Dileep Kumar Singh, it has been held that though a proviso does not travel beyond the provision to which it is appended, golden rule is to read the whole Section, inclusive of the proviso in such manner that they mutually throw light on each other and result in a harmonious construction.

It has been held in R. v. Leeds Prison (Governor), that the main part of an enactment cannot be so interpreted as to render its proviso unnecessary and ineffective.

In Commissioner of Income-tax, Bhopal v. M/s. Shelly Products, the Supreme Court: 

  • While interpreting the proviso to Section 240 of the Income-tax Act, 1961 clarified that where a proviso consists of two parts, one part may be declaratory but the other part may not be so. 
  • Therefore, merely because one part of the proviso has been held to the declaratory, it does not follow that the second part of it is also declaratory. 
  • Since proviso (b) to Section 240 of the Act is declaratory, it was held to be retrospective in operation.

In Shimbhu v. State of Haryana, the Apex Court held that a proviso should be construed in relation to the main provision. 

But, in Sree Balaji Nagar Residential Assn. V. State of Tamil Nadu, the apex court clarified that where the main provision is clear and unambiguous, recourse to the proviso cannot be taken to interpret it. 

In State of Punjab v. Kailash Nath, the Supreme Court held that the proviso has to read as an exception to the main provision of a section.

Sometimes more than one provisos are attached with the section. If there is any repugnancy between the two provisos, the latter shall prevail.

A proviso may serve four different purposes: 

  • qualifying or excepting certain provisions from the main enactment; 
  • it may entirely change the very concept of the intendment of the enactment by insisting on certain mandatory conditions to be fulfilled in order to make the enactment workable; 
  • it may be so embedded in the Act itself as to become an integral part of the enactment and thus acquire the tenor and colour of the substantive enactment itself; and
  • it may be used merely to act as an option addenda to the enactment with the sole object of explaining the real intentions of the statutory provision.

Limitations of Proviso as Internal Aid to Construction

  • Proviso is constructed in relation to the section to which it is appended.
  • The ambition and scope of enacting sections cannot be widened or curtailed by the proviso.

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