Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius – Interpretation of Statutes

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This maxim is given to gauge the intent of the legislature.[1]If the words of the Statute are plain and its meaning is clear then there is no scope for applying the rule.[2]Through various situations given hereinafter, true nature of this rule has been attempted to be unleashed:

  1. This rule applies when a provision is clearly set out which is in contrast with the other provision which is not clearly set out in the statute. Were both the provisions clearly set out in the statute then harmonious construction had to be applied. To elaborate further on this, look into Harish Chandra Bajpai v. Triloki Singh[3]. In the preceding judgment, question before the Supreme Court was whether the Tribunal could allow an amendment to the original petition whereby a new charge could be introduced. S. 83(3) provided for amending the petition to include the particulars while a general provision was laid out in Order VI Rule 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure. When the question arose whether this rule is applicable in that case or not, the Court holding that this provision operates only when the subject matter is common for the plausible applicability of this rule which isn’t the case here and further observed:

This limitation cannot operate, when the subject-matter of the two provisions is not the same. Section 83(3) relates only to amendment of particulars, and when the amendment sought is one of particulars, that section will apply to the exclusion of any rule of the Civil Procedure Code which might conflict with it, though it does not appear that there is any such rule. But where the amendment relates not to the particulars but to other matters, that is a field not occupied by S. 83(3), and Order VI Rule 17 will apply. The fallacy in the argument of the appellants lies in the assumption that s. 83(3) is a comprehensive enactment on the whole subject of amendment, which it clearly is not. In this view there is no scope for the application of the maxim, expression unius exclusion alterius, on which the appellants rely.[4]

Both the provisions were specifically laid out in the above case, i.e. S. 83(3) and O. VI R.17. Also, lex specialis is applicable in the above case only with respect to ‘amending the particulars’ as we had seen for lex specialis to be applicable, subject matter of both the laws should be common. Thus to the extent to which ‘amending the subject matter’ of the original petition is concerned, lex specialis is applicable otherwise the general law shall prevail i.e. Code of Civil Procedure.

  1. Both the provisions, express and implied should operate on the same subject matter. If the subject matter of both the provisions is different this rule has no application.[5]
  1. Limitation of this rule is: If the alternative provision is clearly set out then this rule is not applied. As stated above, this rule is employed to gauge the intention of the Parliament which if, is clear from the words used should be applied.

Part IV of the Motor Vehicles Act provided for obtaining ‘permit’ by the government to enter into a commercial practice with the other private players. Later Part IVA was inserted into the Motor Vehicles Act whereby through a ‘scheme’ only government could obtain the permit to ply vehicles, which could be claimed as a matter of right. To this, petitioners used the said doctrine and contested – Since the provision for scheme is clearly set out in Part IVA, it by virtue of Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius excludes the ‘permit’ under Part IV of the Act. Negating this contention Court observed:

 

It is a maxim for ascertaining the intention of the legislature. Where the statutory language is plain and the meaning clear, there is no scope for applying the rule. Section 42(3) (a) of the Motor Vehicles Act, is plain in its terms. It contemplates that the Government has to apply for permits under Section 42(1) to run buses as a commercial enterprise. That being so, the maxim cannot be resorted to for ascertaining the intention of the legislature and implying a prohibition against the Government applying for permits under Chapter IV.

[1] Para 10 of Parbhani Transport v. Regional Transport

[2] Id.

[3] AIR 1957 SC 444

[4] Id. Reply to Fourth Contention on para 21 of Harish Chandra Bajpai v. Triloki Singh

[5] Id.

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