3 Nov 2010

Inclusive versus Exhaustive definitions: The concepts understood

Legal interpretation is one fertile ground for lawyers and judges alike. The law-makers do not leave out their bit as well. They provide more reasons for them to do so. One major cause to this effect is the definition provisions which find an inevitable presence in all statutes by default. What should be the meaning applicable to a particular term in a particular statute is one of constant controversy and most of them owe their origin to the manner in which definition provision is worded. 

Based on their character definitions are generally of two types (i) inclusive - i.e. providing what all is covered by specification while leaving the scope open to others also to be covered within the ambit of the provision, (ii) exclusive (or 'means' definition) - i.e. those providing an exhaustive meaning to the term and no other meaning is permissible.

The Supreme Court recently in West Bengal State Warehousing Corporation v. M/s. Indrapuri Studio Pvt. Ltd. inter alia explained the difference between the two in the following terms;
13. Section 3(b) of the 1894 Act, which also contains definition of the expression `person interested’ and which was interpreted by the Constitution Bench in U.P. Awas Evam Vikas Parishad v. Gyan Devi (supra), reads as under:
“3(b). the expression “person interested” includes all persons claiming an interest in compensation to be made on account of the acquisition of land under this Act; and a person shall be deemed to be interested in land if he is interested in an easement affecting the land.”
14. A comparative study of the two definitions of expression ‘person interested’, one contained in Section 3(b) of the 1894 Act and the other contained in Section 2(d) of the Act shows that while the first definition is inclusive, the second definition is exhaustive. The difference between exhaustive and inclusive definitions has been explained in P. Kasilingam v. P.S.G. College of Technology (1995) Supp 2 SCC 348 in the following words:
A particular expression is often defined by the Legislature by using the word ‘means’ or the word ‘includes’. Sometimes the words ‘means and includes’ are used. The use of the word ‘means’ indicates that “definition is a hard-and-fast definition, and no other meaning can be assigned to the expression than is put down in definition”. (See : Gough v. Gough; Punjab Land Development and Reclamation Corpn. Ltd. v. Presiding Officer, Labour Court.) The word ‘includes’ when used, enlarges the meaning of the expression defined so as to comprehend not only such things as they signify according to their natural import but also those things which the clause declares that they shall include. The words “means and includes”, on the other hand, indicate “an exhaustive explanation of the meaning which, for the purposes of the Act, must invariably be attached to these words or expressions”. (See: Dilworth v. Commissioner of Stamps (Lord Watson); Mahalakshmi Oil Mills v. State of A.P. The use of the words “means and includes” in Rule 2(b) would, therefore, suggest that the definition of ‘college’ is intended to be exhaustive and not extensive and would cover only the educational institutions falling in the categories specified in Rule 2(b) and other educational institutions are not comprehended. Insofar as engineering colleges are concerned, their exclusion may be for the reason that the opening and running of the private engineering colleges are controlled through the Board of Technical Education and Training and the Director of Technical Education in accordance with the directions issued by the AICTE from time to time.”
In Bharat Cooperative Bank (Mumbai) Ltd. v. Employees Union (2007) 4 SCC 685, this Court again considered the difference between the inclusive and exhaustive definitions and observed:
“When in the definition clause given in any statute the word “means” is used, what follows is intended to speak exhaustively. When the word “means” is used in the definition it is a “hard-and-fast” definition and no meaning other than that which is put in the definition can be assigned to the same. On the other hand, when the word “includes” is used in the definition, the legislature does not intend to restrict the definition: it makes the definition enumerative but not exhaustive. That is to say, the term defined will retain its ordinary meaning but its scope would be extended to bring within it matters, which in its ordinary meaning may or may not comprise. Therefore, the use of the word “means” followed by the word “includes” in the definition of “banking company” in Section 2(bb) of the ID Act is clearly indicative of the legislative intent to make the definition exhaustive and would cover only those banking companies which fall within the purview of the definition and no other.” 
In N.D.P. Namboodripad v. Union of India (2007) 4 SCC 502, the Court observed :
“The word “includes” has different meanings in different contexts. Standard dictionaries assign more than one meaning to the word “include”. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “include” as synonymous with “comprise” or “contain”. Illustrated Oxford Dictionary defines the word “include” as: (i) comprise or reckon in as a part of a whole; (ii) treat or regard as so included. Collins Dictionary of English Language defines the word “includes” as: (i) to have as contents or part of the contents; be made up of or contain; (ii) to add as part of something else; put in as part of a set, group or a category; (iii) to contain as a secondary or minor ingredient or element. It is no doubt true that generally when the word “include” is used in a definition clause, it is used as a word of enlargement, that is to make the definition extensive and not restrictive. But the  word “includes” is also used to connote a specific meaning, that is, as “means and includes” or “comprises” or “consists of”.” 
In Hamdard (Wakf) Laboratories v. Dy. Labour Commissioner (2007) 5 SCC 281, it was held as under:
“When an interpretation clause uses the word “includes”, it is prima facie extensive. When it uses the word “means and includes”, it will afford an exhaustive explanation to the meaning which for the purposes of the Act must invariably be attached to the word or expression.”
15. The judgment in U.P. Awas Evam Vikas Parishad v. Gyan Devi (supra) is clearly distinguishable. The question which fell for consideration of the Constitution Bench was whether the appellant was entitled to participate in the proceedings of the Tribunal constituted under Section 64 of the Uttar Pradesh Awas and Vikas Parishad Adhiniyam, 1965 and lead evidence on the issue of payment of compensation to the land owners. After adverting to the definition of `person interested’ contained in Section 3(b), Sections 11, 17, 18 and 50 of the 1894 Act, as amended in 1984, and making a reference to an earlier judgment in Himalayan Tiles and Marble (P) Ltd. v. Francis Victor Coutinho (1980) 3 SCC 223, this Court held that local authority is entitled to be impleaded as a party in the proceedings before the Reference Court and in case the amount of compensation is enhanced by the Court, the local authority can file an appeal with the leave of the Court subject to the condition that no appeal is filed by the Government. The ratio of this decision cannot be invoked for declaring that the appellant falls within the definition of the expression `person interested’ within the meaning of Section 2(d) of the Act and is entitled to challenge the award of the Arbitrator because the definition which was interpreted by the Constitution Bench was inclusive and not exhaustive. The other judgments in which Section 3(b) of the 1894 Act is interpreted are likewise not relevant for deciding the issue raised in this case.


Bridgette McConnochie said...

Thank you! :)

Zohaib Waris said...

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Zohaib Waris said...

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