Internal Aids to Interpretation of Statutes – A Detailed Analysis.

The interpretation is the term used for explaining something which is complex for the people or the individuals, in general, to understand in the words or in a form which would make a person have the knowledge over the concept at hand in an easier way. Considering the statutes present in the Indian Constitution which are drafted by the legal experts are comparatively difficult to understand by a person with no legal background or knowledge to that of the person with a legal background or knowledge over the statutes or to that of the terms with the legislations or statutes which are at question. The interpretation is a step taken by the judiciary to determine or analyze the meaning of a particular legal provision or statute provided, though the meaning is being determined by the judiciary there are certain principles or rules laid down for the judiciary to interpret the statute of the legal provision in question before the court of law[1]. The article is a detailed analysis of Internal Aids to Interpretation of Statutes.

The term rule of interpretation of statute according to Sir William Blackstone, is “the most fair and rational method for interpreting a statute is by exploring the intention of the legislature through texts, the subject matter, the effect and the consequences or the spirit and reason of law”[2], which provides that according to Blackstone the method to interpret a statue is by literally drawing out or exploring what has been provided in legislation by analysing its consequences or the reason of the law within the statute or legislation. According to John Salmond “the interpretation and construction is the process by which the court seeks to ascertain the meaning of the legislature through the medium of authoritative forms in which it is expressed”[3]. The definition as provided above it could be observed that according to the jurist Salmond both construction as well as the interpretation of a particular statue is the process which is undertaken by the court to draw the meaning of the legislation at the question. The construction of the interpretation of statutes in the above sense is the process to draw conclusions to the existing ambiguous or vague provisions of the statute in order to resolve an inconsistency. The difference between both construction and interpretation of a statute is pointed out by deriving a final end to a particular action which is being laid forth by the court, the construction is used for enabling conclusion to the fatal situations or any sort of situation just for the sack of concluding the case, whereas as observed the interpretation of the statute is considered to be an art form to find out the true or exact sense of an existing provision or enactment by giving words to their ordinary or natural meaning[4].

Aids to the Interpretation of Statutes

An aid is a tool or a device which assists or helps in interpreting a statute, here the court can take or consider the assistance from any of the aids which are available i.e., the courts can take ‘internal aids’ which literally implies the availability within the statues or could consider the ‘external aids’ which implies the reference outside the statues such as the textbooks, dictionaries, constituent/ legislative speeches or debates accordingly, foreign laws and decisions, committee reports etc.

Internal aid

The internal aid as observed is an aid which the courts seek is available within the statue, the interpretation of statutes could be put forth by the courts by employing the following aids:

  1. Title of the statue:
  2. a) Short title – the short title of a particular act is the name or the title used for the purpose of identification or reference, which consists of the title of the act being referred, ending with the year of passing the act. For instance, the title for the act of contracts is titled or is referred to as the Indian Contract Act, 1872, the Code of Civil procedure, 1908, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 etc. Here, it only provides the title of the act for reference or identification but not the description and it does not have any role in interpreting the provisions within an act or for an act.
  3. b) Long title – the long title provides the description about the object, purpose or scope of the provided Act, the long title is preceded by the preamble of the Act and is distinguished with the short title of the Act. For instance, considering the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 states “An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to the prevention of corruption and matters and connected therewith” which provides a brief note of the object as to what the Act mentioned deals with, the long title however during the olden days was not considered by the courts for the purpose of aid to interpreted the statutes, whereas now i.e., during the recent time the courts started to take the long title into consideration for interpreting in various occasions for the purpose of providing a proper understanding to the issue at the question or for the purpose of removing the ambiguity or confusion present in the statue or legislations.

Considering the case of Amarendra Kumar Mohapatra v. State of Orissa[5], it was held by the Supreme Court that the long title provided under the statute provides the scope or scope or objective of the concerning legislation, but the true nature is to be determined based on the nature of the substance but not based on the label provided by the enactment.


Through the preamble of the statute, the importance or the purpose and objective of the act is determined or simply the preamble of the statute is something which contains the aims or objectives of the concerning Act which are sought to be achieved or the importance of the Act. The difference between the long title provided and the preamble is that it (Preamble) delivers the causes and basis as to the creation of a particular law within the Act, the preamble cannot be used to delete any clauses within the statute which are operative or by declaring the clause unintended or unnecessary, but can be used to refer any uncertainty or helps in correcting the meaning of the terms which might have more than one meaning. The preamble is mentioned in the first page of any concerning act, though those are or were applicable to all the Acts which are old but the modern or the Acts which are passed doesn’t consist of the preamble in the first page for reference declining its importance.

Considering the case of Global Energy Ltd. v. Central Electricity Regulatory Commission[6], it was put forth by the apex court that the preamble is to be used to analyse the object of a legislation.

Another case Kashi Prasad v. State[7], the Supreme Court held that the preamble can be treated or can be considered as a key for the interpretation of the statutes of a body, though it cannot be used for defeating the enactments or the enacted clauses of an existing statute.

In the case of Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh v. NTC (South Maharashtra)[8], while interpreting certain provisions under the Textile Undertakings (Take over of Management) Act of 1983, the Supreme Court held that the preamble cannot be appealed to restrict or to curtail the scope of the concerning enactment when the language of the mentioned Act is clear.

 Therefore, the preamble acts as an important element which guided the judges in interpretation of the Indian Constitution, and the words under preamble are considered to have highlighted some of the guiding principles and fundamental values over which the Indian Constitution is observed to have been based.

Marginal Notes

The notes which are inserted alongside the sections of the concerning Act are referred to as the Marginal Notes or the side notes which express the effect of the sections which are being dealt. In olden days the marginal notes were considered for help when the enactment or the meaning of the enactment of the section was in question, however from the modern view or currently the marginal notes according to the courts have no role in interpreting the statutes, because the marginal notes are not inserted by the legal experts or the legislators or any authority dealing with the legislature but are inserted by the drafters due to which they are not considered to be a part of the statute. The marginal notes under the Indian Constitution were inserted by the Constituent assembly acting as an authority while interpreting the Indian Constitution, therefore the marginal notes under the constitution can be referred when any of the enactment is in question or in any situations of doubt or uncertainty. These marginal notes under certain exceptional situations can be inserted by the legislature, and which results in considering these marginal notes for helping in interpreting the act or the enactment.

Under the Bengal Immunity Company v. State of Bihar [9] case, the apex court put for the judgment stating that the marginal notes for the Article 286 of the Indian Constitution as it was observed to have drafted by the Constituent Assembly it is considered to be a part of the constitution, therefore the marginal notes can be relied on for interpreting the concerning Article.

In the case of Thakurain Balraj Kanwar Rao v. Jagatpal Singh[10], the court has noted that the marginal notes under the sections concerning the enactment of the parliament are not to be considered for the creation of the legislation. Similarly, under the case of Tara Prasad Singh v. Union of India[11], the Supreme court held that the marginal notes under any section of the statute where the effect of the provision will not be taken away.


The Headings are considered to be treated as the key for the interpretation of the statutes and are treated as the preambles to the concerning preceding provisions. For instance, considering the Section 44 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973) deals with the “arrest by the magistrate” or the section 437 of CrPC deals with “when bail may be taken in case of non-bailable offences”. Here, as observed the headings consist of the description of the section, it is as if it is the summary of the section on whole. The headings, however, are not passed or provided by the legislation but are inserted after the bill has become law.

In the case, Tolley v. Giddings[12], the section 217 of the Road Traffic Act was interpreted was in question where it deals with the offences within which a person shall be held liable in case the person herself/himself allowed to drive the motor vehicle without the consent of their owner or master. The heading of the provided provision was “miscellaneous and general” whereas the sub-heading of the provision is “Penalization of taking a motor vehicle without authority. The Supreme court with regard to the above provided that the intention of the legislature is clearly understood from the provided headings and therefore the passenger in the case was held liable or guilty of an offence under Section 217 of the Road Traffic Act.


The illustrations are something which is provided at the end of a section or a provision in order to explain or analyse the provided section. The illustrations are available in the form of examples for the provided provision. There are many Indian provisions or Acts which have illustrations at the end of the various concerning sections, which helps in understanding the intention of the legislators over the particular section and act as a guide. However, the provided illustration for the section cannot be extended or is restricted to be used for the enactments based on the same.

Considering the case of Mahesh Chand Sharma v. Raj Kumari Sharma[13], the Supreme Court observed considering the illustration available and held that they are the part or are considered to be a part of the section as it helps in explaining the principles of the section. However, the illustrations in the case cannot modify or defeat the language of the already existing section. Which is reflected by considering the maxim “Exampla illustrant, non- restringent legem” implies that the examples existing only illustrate the scope of rule of law but do not narrow it down.

Another case, Mohomed Syedol Ariffin v. Yeoh Ooi Gark[14], it was put forth by the apex court in its judgment that the illustrations are important and are valued and relevant for the construction of any of the texts within a section, however, they are not considered to be a part of the section.

Definition or Interpretation Clause

The definition or the interpretation clauses are included within a statute with the purpose of extending the already existing meaning of certain words, whose meaning is not clear by providing them with meaning in a general sense. The court during the interpretation of the provision feels that if the definition clause if in a case is applied the result would be unreasonable or simply absurd. The definition clause, however, is not used in explaining the same word which is being used in the other statute, if the word is defined or explained in one statute under the definition clause it must be limited to its use under the same. if in case both acts or statutes are pari materia (on the same subject) then the word which is defined under the interpretation or definition clause could be assigned to the other Act.

Under the rule of interpretation if the words mean and means and include are being used within the scope of the provided definition then the definition is considered to be exhaustive i.e., simply complete which will not allow the words to be interpreted widely but if the word ‘include’ is only used within the definition then it shall provide the interpretation in the widest way possible or simply it expands the already existing meaning of the clause with the use of the word include[15].

Considering the case of Mahalaxmi Oils Mills v. State of A.P.[16], where in the case the word tobacco which was interpreted was in question which provided that the word tobacco implies any form of tobacco whether manufactured or not or whether cured or uncured and this also includes the stems of the tobacco plant and the leaf stalks. The Apex Court held that the definition provided for the word is exhaustive and the Supreme Court refused to consider the tobacco seeds within the scope of the provided definition.


The explanation is added to the concerning section in order to elaborate or analyse the meaning of the words within a section. The main purpose which could be observed is that the explanation provided within the scope of Acts is that it helps in clarification or in explanation of the meaning of the particular provision or the section in order to remove doubts or in clear understanding. The explanation as observed does not expand the meaning of the section or the concerning provision but only tries to remove the confusion if any for understanding the true meaning of the enactment of the provision. There are almost most of the Indian acts which bear the explanation attached to the sections. Considering Section 108 of the Indian Penal Code for instance, which defines the term abettor consisting of five different explanations under the same. The explanations are not inserted at the time of enacting the statutes but rather at the later stage i.e., considering the section 405 of the Penal Code, 1860 bearing two different explanations defining the Criminal breach of trust were inserted into the provision in 1973 and 1975 respectively.

Under the case of Bengal Immunity Company v. State of Bihar[17], the Apex Court observed that the explanation is considered to be a part of the section and is to be read together in order to understand the true meaning of the section or the concerning provision.

In the case of Bihta Co-operative Development Cane Marketing Union v. State of Bihar[18] in case of conflict between the explanation provided for the main provision, the Supreme Court held that as of the duty of the courts to harmonise or settle the issue or the two.


In a general sense the punctuations are considered to be important elements within a sentence or any of the sentences, if the punctuations are not being used in a sentence it would change the meaning of the sentence, on the whole, the same way the punctuations in the interpretation of statutes is considered to be important. The punctuations are in the form of a semicolon, colon, full stop, comma, a hyphen, brackets, dash etc., the courts were not concerned with the punctuations during the earlier times while passing statutes, but in modern times the punctuations are considered to be important for passing statutes. The punctuations are not added or are not considered to be important to a particular provision of a statute only when the courts read the provision on whole and see if the meaning of the provision does not alter the meaning of the same without the punctuation being present.

In the case of Aswini Kumar Ghose And Anr. v. Arabinda Bose And Anr.[19], the Apex Court held that the punctuation is not to be regarded as the element controlling the meaning of the text.


The schedules are a part of the statues which are mentioned at the end of the Act which lays an emphasis on exercising the powers which are conferred under the concerning Act. The schedules also contain the details as to the working of the policies and the subjects existing in the form of lists. Considering the situations of the clash among both the main body and the schedules the main body is to prevail between both. Considering Article 1 of the Indian Constitution for instance which states that India shall be the Union of the states and under Schedule 1 deals with the names of the states and their territorial jurisdiction.

Under the case of Jagdish Prasad v. State of Rajasthan and others, the apex court put forth the purpose of the schedule is in advancing the main provision’s object and in case of deleting the schedule will not wipe the provision of the concerning Act out.

Saving Clause and Exception

In a general sense, the exceptions are added to an enactment of a new statute which helps in exempting something falling into the ambit of the main or original provision. Considering the section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for instance to define defamation, there are ten exceptions under the same and these exceptions point out the cases of exceptions which do not amount to defamation, also, considering the Section 2 of the Penal Code, 1860 dealing with intra- territorial jurisdiction which has five exceptions under the same. The saving clause is inserted during the time of the repealing, in case of a clash between both the saving clause and the main statute, the main statute prevails and the saving clause is not considered.

Under the case of Collector of Customs v. M/s. Modi Rubber Limited[20], it was held by the apex court that in the case where there are exceptions under any of the existing provisions to the principal clause, then the exceptions must be considered with regard to the concerning principal clause.

Considering the case of Shah Bhojraj Kuverji Oil Mills v. Subhash Chandra Yograj Sinha[21], under which the apex court refused the use of the saving clause which was enacted similarly to that of the proviso in determining whether the particular section under the Act is retrospective in its operation.


The proviso is the part of the sections with which the clause of the provision begins with i.e., some sections under the statute succeeding the main provision, where a clause is added with the words beginning with “provided that __” is considered to be or is referred to as the provision of the concerning section. The proviso is added to the clauses in order to limit the applicability of the said clause, its main function could be observed to be something which is excluded or is qualified within the purview of the concerning enactment.  The court can add words to the proviso of the clause in order to enlarge its scope and in case of conflict among both proviso and the main provision, the view of the jurist proviso shall be prevailing as it is considered to be the intention of the legislature or the makers. For instance, under the T. Devadasan v. Union of India [22] the Article 16(9) was held or is considered to be the proviso of the Article 16(1) of the Indian Constitution.

Under the case of Union of India v. Sanjay Kumar Jain[23], the court held that the proviso’s function is to carve out or to qualify the exception to the concerning main provision.


It could be concluded from the aids provided that the internal aids are important for the interpretation of the statutes, the statues especially the meaning of the clauses or the sections drafted by the lawmakers seems to have a specific meaning and importance to each of the provisions within the statues. It is important for the legal persons as well as for the individuals to understand a particular provision if, in need, it cannot be unknowingly questioned before any authority. It is important to understand the structure or the nature of the provisions. The aids help in interpreting the provisions of the statutes in a systematic form. The research highlighted the aids along the cases concerning the same.


[1] Sir Peter Benson Maxwell, On the Interpretation of Statutes 1 (W. Maxwell & Son, London, 1875).

[2] William Blackstone and George Sharswood, I Commentaries on the Laws of England 59 (J.B. Lippincott, 1886).

[3] Sir John William Salmond and Glanville Llewelyn Williams, Jurisprudence 152 (Sweet & Maxwell, 11th edn., 1957). 

[4] Interpretation of Statutes: A complete study to an aids to interpretation, available at: Internal Aids To Interpretation Of Statutes: Detailed Analysis – C.L.A.W. ( (last visited on December 18, 2020).

[5] Amarendra Kumar Mohapatra v. State of Orissa AIR 2014 SC 1716.

[6] AIR 2007 Delhi 120.

[7]Kashi Prasad v. State AIR 1950 AII 732.

[8] 1996 SCC (1) 313.

[9] Bengal Immunity Company v. State of Bihar AIR 1953 Pat. 87.

[10] Thakurain Balraj Kanwar Rao v. Jagatpal Singh (1904) ILR 26 AII 393.

[11] Tara Prasad Singh v. Union of India AIR 1980 SC 1682.

[12] Tolley v. Giddings (1964) 2 QB 354.

[13] Mahesh Chand Sharma v. Raj Kumari Sharma 1996 AIR 869.

[14] Mohhamed Syedol Ariffin v. Yeoh Ooi Gark (1917) 19 BOMLR 157.

[15] Hamdard (Waqf) Laboratories v. Deputy Labour Commissioner 2003 (97) FLR 1053.

[16] Mahalaxmi Oils Mils v. State of A.P. AIR 1985 SC 335.

[17] 1953 (1) BLJR 48.

[18] Bihta Co-operative Development Cane Marketing Union v. State of Bihar 1967 AIR 389.

[19] Aswini Kumar Ghose And Anr. v. Arabinda Bose And Anr. AIR 1953 SC 75.

[20] Civil Appeal no. 4090  of  1995.

[21] Shah Bhojraj Kuverji Oil Mills v. Subhash Chandra Yograj Sinha 1961 AIR 1596.

[22] T. Devadasan v. Union of India AIR 1964 SC 179.

[23] Union of India v. Sanjay Kumar Jain 102 (2003) DLT 525 (DB).




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