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External Aids To Construction

When internal aids are not adequate, court has to take recourse to External aids. External Aids may be parliamentary material, historical background, reports of a committee or a commission, official statement, dictionary meanings, foreign decisions, etc. In Prabhakar Rao and others v. State of A.P. and others1), O. Chennappa, Reddy J. has observed : Where internal aids are not forthcoming, we can always have recourse to external aids to discover the object of the legislation. External aids are not ruled out. This is now a well settled principle of modern statutory construction.

Parliamentary History, Historical Facts and Surrounding Circumstances

Historical setting cannot be used as an aid if the words are plain and clear. If the wordings are ambiguous, the historical setting may be considered in order to arrive at the proper construction. Historical setting covers parliamentary history, historical facts, statement of objects and reasons, report of expert committees. Recently, the Supreme Court in R. Chaudhuri v State of Punjab and others2), has stated that it is a settled position that debates in the Constituent Assembly may be relied upon as an aid to interpret a Constitutional provision because it is the function of the Court to find out the intention of the framers of the Constitution.

Social, Political and Economic Developments and Scientific Inventions

A Statute must be interpreted to include circumstances or situations which were unknown or did not exist at the time of enactment of the statute. Any relevant changes in the social conditions and technology should be given due weightage. Courts should take into account all these developments while construing statutory provisions.

In P. Gupta v. Union of India3), it was stated – The interpretation of every statutory provision must keep pace with changing concepts and values and it must, to the extent to which its language permits or rather does not prohibit, suffer adjustments through judicial interpretation so as to accord with the requirement of the fast changing society which is undergoing rapid social and economic transformation

Reference to Other Statutes

In case where two Acts have to be read together, then each part of every act has to be construed as if contained in one composite Act. However, if there is some clear discrepancy then the latter Act would modify the earlier. Where a single provision of one Act has to be read or added in another, then it has to be read in the sense in which it was originally construed in the first Act. In this way the whole of the first Act can be mentioned or referred in the second Act even though only a provision of the first one was adopted.

In case where an old Act has been repealed, it loses its operative force. Nevertheless, such a repealed part may still be taken into account for construing the unrepealed part. For the purpose of interpretation or construction of a statutory provision, courts can refer to or can take help of other statutes. It is also known as statutory aids. The General Clauses Act, 1897 is an example of statutory aid. The application of this rule of construction has the merit of avoiding any contradiction between a series of statutes dealing with the same subject, it allows the use of an earlier statute to throw light on the meaning of a phrase used in a later statute in the same context.

On the same logic when words in an earlier statute have received an authoritative exposition by a superior court, use of same words in similar context in a later statute will give rise to a presumption that the legislature intends that the same interpretation should be followed for construction of those words in the later statute.


When a word is not defined in the statute itself, it is permissible to refer to dictionaries to find out the general sense in which that word is understood in common parlance. However, in the selection of one out of the various meanings of a word, regard must always be had to the scheme, context and legislative history.

Judicial Decisions

When judicial pronouncements are been taken as reference it should be taken into note that the decisions referred are Indian, if they are foreign it should be ensured that such a foreign country follows the same system of jurisprudence as ours and that these decisions have been taken in the ground of the same law as ours. These foreign decisions have persuasive value only and are not binding on Indian courts and where guidance is available from binding Indian decisions; reference to foreign decisions is of no use.

Other Materials

Similarly, Supreme Court used information available on internet for the purpose of interpretation of statutory provision in Ramlal v. State of Rajasthan4). Courts also refer passages and materials from text books and articles and papers published in the journals. These external aids are very useful tools not only for the proper and correct interpretation or construction of statutory provision, but also for understanding the object of the statute, the mischief sought to be remedied by it, circumstances in which it was enacted and many other relevant matters. In the absence of the admissibility of these external aids, sometimes court may not be in a position to do justice in a case.

AIR 1986 SC 120
(2001) 7 SCC 126 [4]
AIR 1982 SC 149
(2001) 1 SCC 175