Advocate N. M. Ranka

1. Introduction:

No enactment has been enacted by the Legislature for Interpretation of Statues including on Tax Laws. However, in many an acts, definition clause is inserted to mean a ‘word’ or ‘expression’. Explanations and Provisos are inserted to expand or curtail. No codified rules have been made by the rule making authority or the Legislature. Rules are judge made, keeping due regard of the objects, intent and purpose of the enacted provision. Interpretation is the primary function of a court of law. The Court interprets the provision whenever a challenge is thrown before it. Interpretation would not be arbitrary or fanciful but an honest continuous exercise by the Courts.

1.1. The expression “interpretation” and “construction” are generally understood as synonymous even though jurisprudentially both are distinct and different. “Interpretation” means the art of finding out of true sense of the enactment whereas “Construction” means drawing conclusions on the documents based on its language, phraseology clauses, terms and conditions. Rules for Interpretation of “Tax Laws” are to some extent different than the General Principles of Interpretation of Common Law. Rules of Interpretation which govern the tax laws are being dealt in this series of articles.

2. Particulars in a Statute:

Every enactment normally contains Short title; Long title; Preamble; Marginal notes; Headings of a group of sections or of individual sections; Definition of interpretation clauses; Provisos; Illustrations; Exceptions and saving clauses; Explanations; Schedules; Punctuations; etc. Title may be short or long. Preamble contains the main object. Marginal notes are given. Chapters and Headings are group of sections. In the Finance Bill, Memorandum containing explanation on every clause, intent and purpose for the proposal is given. Central Board of Direct Taxes issues Circulars explaining each clause. Finance Minister in his speech refers to the proposed insertions, amendments, alterations, modifications etc. It is highly desirable to go through such material apart from unmodified provision for proper understanding, pleadings and arguments.

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September 2021