Internal Aid of Interpretation

The statute generally means the law or the Act of the legislative authority. The general rule of the interpretation is that statutes must prima facie be given this ordinary meaning. If the words are clear, free from ambiguity there is no need to refer to other means of interpretation.

But if the words are vague, ambiguous or conflicting than internal aid may be sought for interpretation. With these internal aids, a reader can understand and construct the true meaning and purpose of the law.

Internal Aid of Interpretation

Internal Aids of Interpretation


1. Context

If the words of a statute are ambiguous then the context must be taken into consideration. The context includes other provisions of the statute, its preamble, the existing state of law and other legal provisions. The intention behind the meaning of the words and the circumstances under which they are framed must be considered.

2. Title

The title of an Act is not part of enactment. So it cannot be legally used to restrict the plain meaning of the words in an enactment. Long title. The heading of the statute is the long title and the general purpose is described in it.

E.g. Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, the long title reads as follows “An Act to make provisions for the prevention of adulteration of food”.

  • In Re Kerala Education Bill, the Supreme Court held that the policy and purpose may be deduced from the long title and the preamble.
  • In Manohar Lal v State of Punjab, Long title of the Act is relied as a guide to decide the scope of the Act.

3. Short Title

The short title of the Act is purely for reference only. The short title is merely for convenience. E.g. The Indian Penal Code, 1860.

3. Preamble

The Act Starts with a preamble and is generally small. The main objective and purpose of the Act are found in the Preamble of the Statute. “Preamble is the Act in a nutshell. It is a preparatory statement. It contains the recitals showing the reason for the enactment of the Act. If the language of the Act is clear the preamble must be ignored. The preamble is an intrinsic aid in the interpretation of an ambiguous act.

  • In Kashi Prasad v State, the court held that even though the preamble cannot be used to defeat the enacting clauses of a statute, it can be treated as a key for the interpretation of the statute.

4. Headings

A group of Sections are given under a heading which acts as their preamble. Sometimes a single section might have a preamble. S.378- 441 of IPC is “Offences against property”. Headings are prefixed to sections. They are treated as preambles. If there is ambiguity in the words of a statute, headings can be referred.

  • In Durga Thathera v Narain Thathera, the court held that the headings are like a preamble which helps as a key to the mind of the legislature but do not control the substantive section of the enactment.

5. Marginal notes

Marginal notes are the notes that are printed at the side of the section in an Act and it summarizes the effect of the section. They are not part of the statute. So they must not be considered. But if there is any ambiguity they may be referred only as an internal aid to the construction.

  • In Wilkes v Goodwin, the Court held that the side notes are not part of the Act and hence marginal notes cannot be referred.

6. Proviso

A proviso merely carves out something from the section itself. A proviso is a subsidiary to the main section and has to be construed in the light of the section itself. Ordinarily, a proviso is intended to be part of the section and not an addendum to the main provisions. A proviso should receive strict construction. The court is not entitled to add words to a proviso with a view to enlarge the scope.

7. Definition/ Interpretation clause

The legislature can lay down legal definitions of its own language, if such definitions are embodied in the statute itself, it becomes binding on the courts. When the act itself provides a dictionary for the words used, the court must first look into that dictionary for interpretation.

  • In Mayor of Portsmouth v Smith, the court observed: “The introduction of interpretation clause is a novelty.”

8. Conjunctive and Disjunctive words

The word “and” is conjunctive and the word “or” is disjunctive. These words are often interchangeable. The word ‘and’ can be read as ‘or’ and ‘or’ can be read as ‘and’.

9. Explanations

IN certain provisions of an Act explanations may be needed when doubts arise as to the meaning of the particular section. Explanations are given at the end of each section and it is part and parcel of the enactment.

10. Exceptions and savings clause

To exempt certain clauses from the preview of the main provisions, an exception clause is provided. The things which are not exempted fall within the purview of the main enactment. The saving clause is also added in cases of repeal and re-enactment of a statute.

11. Schedules

Schedules form part of a statute. They are at the end and contain minute details for working out the provisions of the express enactment.
The expression in the schedule cannot override the provisions of the express enactment. Inconsistency between schedule and the Act, the Act prevails. ( Ramchand textiles v sales tax officer)

12. Illustrations

Illustrations in enactment provided by the legislature are valuable aids in understanding the real scope.

13. Meaning of the words

The definition of the words given must be construed in the popular sense. Internal aid to construction is important for interpretation.

14.  Punctuation

Punctuation is disregarded in the construction of a statute. Generally, there was no punctuation in the statutes framed in England before 1849. Punctuation cannot control, vary or modify the plain and simple meaning of the language of the statute.

You may also like: Basic Rules of Interpretation

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Rayhanul Islam

Advocate Rayhanul Islam is the founder and Editor in Chief of Law Help BD. He is also a researcher. Critical thinking is his main focus. He is on a quest to bring positive change to the legal sector of Bangladesh. He promotes legal knowledge and human rights concept to the root level. e-mail: [email protected]

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2 Responses

  1. Jannat tumpa says:

    it was comprehensive,,,,and simply described..

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