Amending statutes

AMENDING STATUTES

An amendment is a legislative act designed to change some prior and existing law by adding or taking from it some particular provision; its purpose is to make such a addition to, or change in the original act as in the judgement of the legislature will better carry out the purpose for which it was enacted. Where an expression bearing a doubtful meaning has been interpreted by the Court consistently as to carry a particular meaning, the same expression if used in subsequent legislations will bear that particular meaning unless a contrary intention appears from the terms of the statute.

It has been observed by the Supreme Court in a Diamond Sugar M ills V. State of Uttar Pradesh, that it is true that when words and phrases subsequent statutes replacing the earlier statute, a presumption exists in favour of the fact that these have been used in accordance with the meanings attributed to them by the Courts. this presumption, however, is not conclusive or absolute and may be rebutted by express language of the statutes or by necessary implication. The presumption will be all the more fragile if a particular meaning has been given to an expression by the Courts only once or twice. When a subsequent act amends an earlier one in such a way as to incorporate itself, or a part of itself, into the earlier, than the earlier Act must inconsistency or absurdity, as if the altered words had been written into the earlier Act and the old words scored out so that thereafter there is no need to refer to the amending Act at all. In other words, an amended act must be read as if the words of amendment had been written into the Act except where that would lead to an inconsistency. In Vajravelu v. Special Deputy Collector, the question of interpretation of the expression compensation used in Article 31 of the Constitution was involved. The Article provided compensation to be given before a property was compulsorily acquired or requisitioned.  Subba Rao, J. said in the Supreme Court that since the word compensation was judicially interpreted in State of West Bengal v. Bela Banarjee, and the parliament used the same word as were found in Article 31 before the amendment, it is apparent that the Parliament had accepted the meaning of the word given to it earlier by the Court. IT is also not proper to assume always that a change in phraseology introduced by amending a provision necessarily means a change in the contents of the provisions or in its meaning because it has always to be correctly seen whether the words were used to change the meaning or to merely clarify the law.

Reference:

  1. Interpretation of Statutes – T.Bhattacharya – Central Law Agency
  2. http://www.britannica.com

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