In general, it is observed that many laws are written, arranged and designed in a way that makes them hard for common man to understand. The same is true for various contracts which are used in day to day life e.g. insurance contracts.

USA Government has passed a law namely the Plain Writing Act of 2010. It will be apt to re-produce a small but relevant portion. [https://www.plainlanguage.gov/law/]

An Act to enhance citizen access to Government information and services by establishing that Government documents issued to the public must be written clearly, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Plain Writing Act of 2010’’.

SEC. 2. PURPOSE.

The purpose of this Act is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.

Kerala High Court in the case of Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company Pvt. Ltd. Vs ACIT (Kerala High Court) 400 ITR 43 has at page 50 observed as follows:

The Provision in Plain English:

(a) A linguistic Aside:

17. The Income Tax Act is one enactment that can shatter anybody’s linguistic confidence or competence. Each provision— inevitably, though—runs into pages, superordinate, subordinate, and sub-subordinate clauses piling up in syntactic curlicues. With annual addition, the provisions lose coherence and defy comprehension. Neither a lawyer nor a Judge can claim with comfort, if not with confidence, that he could comprehend the provision at least on a re­reading; the taxpayer is surely lost in in a maze of meandering phrases.

It is therefore time for the Revenue to host on their website a plain English version of the enactment—only a suggestion, however.

18. Even the native speakers of the language—notably the USA and the UK—have re-drafted, and have been re-drafting, the bulk of their legislation in plain language. In the USA, the Federal and the State Governments apart, the Uniform Law Commission, “a non-profit organisation of volunteers promoting uniformity of laws throughout the United States”, has drafted in legal-linguistic experts like Bryan A Garner and Joseph Kimble for this purpose.

One such step was taken in Finance Act, 2016 [budget] in relation to section 153.

Clause 68 of the Bill seeks to substitute section 153 of the Income-tax Act 1961 with a new section relating to time limit for completion of assessment, reassessment and recomputation.

It is proposed to substitute the existing section 153 to simplify the said section by retaining only those provisions that are relevant to the current provisions. The changes proposed in existing time limit are as under :-

Drafting a whole new law has got its own set of problems, the most prominent being giving rise to litigations.

We may not require a new law, if the house-keeping is done properly, on a yearly basis. Let the best be not the enemy of good.

A. Plain language tests-:

A law or contract [the document] will be treated as written in plain language if it substantially complies with all of the following tests. There are two types of tests namely –

i. Presentation tests – how to present the document paper lay out etc.

ii. Qualitative tests – How to draft the matter. IT is divided into Dos and Don’ts

B. Presentation tests

1) It should be type written or printed.

2) It must make use of underline, bold, italics.

3) It uses type of readable size.

4) It uses ink which contrasts with the paper.

5) It heads sections and other subdivisions with captions which are in boldface type or which otherwise stand out significantly from the text.

6) It uses layout and spacing which separate the paragraphs and sections of the contract from each other and from the borders of the paper.

C. Qualitative characteristics

Do’s

1) It uses short words, sentences and paragraphs.

2) It uses everyday words.

3) It uses personal pronouns, the actual or shortened names of the parties to the contract, or both, when referring to those parties.

4) It uses simple and active verb forms.

5) It is written and organized in a clear and coherent manner.

6) If the contract defines words, the words should be defined by using commonly understood meanings.

7) It uses charts, diagrams or formulas wherever possible.

8) It uses examples to explain the concept / idea.

9) It uses explanations / examples to clarify the position where there can be a grey area.

10) At the beginning itself it clarifies the purpose of document.

11) In case of a document to amend another, it is better to explain the purpose for which the amendment is proposed.

12) In interpretation, there is a concept of mischief test i.e. purposive interpretation.

Don’ts

1) It does not use technical legal terms, other than commonly understood legal terms.

2) It does not use Latin and foreign words or any other word whenever its use requires reliance upon an obsolete meaning.

3) It does not use sentences that contain more than one condition.

4) It does not use cross references, except cross references that briefly and clearly describe the substances of the item to which reference is made.

5) It does not use sentences with double negatives or exceptions to exceptions.

6) It does not use unnecessarily long, complicated, or obscure words, sentences, paragraphs, or constructions.

D. Indexation of Document

a) A document should be appropriately indexed depending upon length of the document, the number of topics involved, paragraphs used etc.

b) If a document contains more than 3000 words or 3 pages, it should be appropriately indexed.

c) The Document may have following.

i. Subject Index

ii. Content index

d) The document should be divided in

1) Chapters,

2) Schedules

3) Exhibits

4) section,

5) sub-section

6) clause

7) sub-clause

8) item

9) sub item

10) paragraph

11) sub-paragraph

12) article

13) sub-article

e) Each chapter, Schedule, Exhibit and section must have a heading.

E. Tried and tested parameters

f) These include ready reference to the parameters which one can readily use

Sentence

g) The average number of words per sentence is less than 22.

h) No sentence shall exceed 50 words.

Words

i) The average number of words per paragraph is less than 75.

j) No paragraph shall exceed 150 words Line spacing – 1.5

k) Paper to be used – May be A-4 or legal paper as the case may be.

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