NATURE OF STATUTES AND THEIR CLASSIFICATION6 min read

BY- NEHA CHAUDHARY

Statutes are the formal written enactments of the central or state legislature These laws restrict or permit the functioning of some action and declare a policy. Its propositions are applied in certain court proceedings.

Nature of Interpretation of Statutes

If the language of the law is ambiguous or has more than one conflicting provision, the statutes are interpreted by the legislature. Any legislator proposes a bill and if it is approved by both the Houses of Parliament as well as signed by the executive officer (president or governor), the bill becomes a law and its provisions are called statutes. Thus, the nature of interpretation of statutes is harmonizing in the sense that it helps the judiciary to make decisions by ascertaining the intentions of the legislature.

Classification of Statutes

  1. On the basis of duration of operation:
  2. Temporary statute – These are the statutes that are enacted for a short span and will lapse after the expiry of the specified period unless it is repealed earlier. For example, ordinances promulgated by the President in situations of emergency when both the Houses of Parliament are not in session.
  3. Perpetual or permanent statute – They have no time limit for the life of the enactment. It remains in force until it is repealed either expressly or impliedly. However, it does not mean that such statutes are unamendable or unrepealable by another act. Example- Pakistan Penal Code, MRTP, 1969.
  4. With reference to the effect:
  5. Statutes with immediate effect – It becomes effective soon after coming into existence.
  6. Retroactive statute – It operates from some past date and had regulated the acts of the past. 
  7. Retrospective statute – As the name itself suggests, the retrospective statute operates though from the future date but takes away the vested rights and creates a new law with respect to actions of the past. 
  8. Prospective statute – It regulates the acts and transactions which will occur in the future. In other words, prospective statutes do not start operating immediately after it comes into effect but operates on the acts in the future.
  9. On the basis of the nature of the operation:
  10. The directory or permissive statute – It permits the doing of some act but doesn’t impose any penalty if not complied with.
  11. Mandatory, imperative, or obligatory statute – It refrains from or directs the doing certain acts in the prescribed form and manner, and if not complied with, the doing of that act will be void and illegal.

In, Chandrika Prasad Yadav vs. the State of Bihar, the court stated that the question of whether a statute is mandatory or directory would depend upon the purpose and object it seeks to achieve.   

  • With reference to extent of application:
  • Local statute – It applies to specified locality.
  • General statute – It is applicable throughout the state or to all individuals of the state.
  • Special statute – It is applicable to some specific classes of individuals within a state.   
  • On the basis of objective:
  • Repealing statute – It terminates mutatis and mutandis earlier or existing law. Example- Competition Act repealed MRTP Act.
  • Amending statute – It provides for the changes by way of omission, deletion, or insertion into the whole or some of the provisions of the existing law. It makes the existing law more suitable in the context of present circumstances than it was when originally passed.
  • Enabling statute – It enlarges the common law where it’s too strict or too narrow. It, kind of, confer power for something to be done which was previously forbidden by law, i.e. to make the performance of something lawful which would be otherwise unlawful. Example- Essential Commodities Act enables the government to fix the price rate of certain commodities and the Land Acquisition Act enables the government to acquire private property for public purposes which would otherwise be illegal.
  • Disabling statute – It restricts the rights conferred by the common law by making the doing of something illegal which is otherwise legal.
  • Codifying statute – It codifies the pre-existing and new rules of common law or statute law on a particular subject, e.g. Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Once codified, it can’t be modified in accordance to changing society, but can be amended by the legislature only.
  • Consolidating statute – It combines the statutory provisions pertaining to a particular subject into a single body and repeals the former statutes. Example- Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 embodies Arbitration Act, 1940 & Arbitration (Protocol and Convention) Act, 1937.
  • Curative/validating statute – It cures the defects in the prior law and validates its illegality if the statute itself had so provided at the time of enacting.
  • Declaratory statute – When the courts, in a particular matter, interpret the meaning of the law as opposed to the intention of its maker, i.e. the legislature, the legislature passes this statute to interpret its correct meaning.
  • Explanatory statute – It interprets the previous statutes and rectifies any lacuna.
  • Prohibitory statute – It prohibits the doing of certain acts. Example- Jammu &Kashmir Land Revenue Act, 1970 earlier forbade the non-residents of J&K from buying any land there.
  • On the basis of contents of statutes:
  • Substantive statutes – It deals with the substantive law, especially with the creation and cutting down of rights and duties. Example- transfer of property act.
  • Procedural/adjective statutes – It deals with the procedure followed in case of infringement of rights and duties as contained in the substantive law. Example- Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
  • On the basis of subject matter:
  • Public statutes – It regulates the collective rights of the society as a whole.
  • Private statutes – It regulates the duties and ensures the rights of an individual in society.
  • Criminal statutes – It deals entirely with crimes. Firstly, it defines acts or omissions which are criminal in nature and then it prescribes punishment for commission or omission of such acts. Example- CrPC, 1973 and Pakistan Penal Code.
  • Penal statutes – These are the prospective statutes that prescribe punishment for certain acts of misconduct, wrong, or offenses that are criminal in nature. These acts, if not punished, can prove detrimental to society. Example- IPC, 1860, UAPA, 1967, etc.
  • Punitive statutes – It deals with the offenses and punishes to some extent. Example-Land Acquisition Act, 1894 provides the procedure for acquiring any private property for public use. Moreover, it also prescribes penalties for its violation to effectuate this Act.
  • Fiscal statutes – These are the prospective statutes concerned with the financial affairs and expenditure of public wealth. It also includes taxing statutes. It imposes certain taxes (like income tax, wealth tax, gift tax), fines, and duties that are to be paid to the government. In addition, tax can be levied only when it is expressly specified in the taxing statutes. Example- Sales Tax Act,1990.
  • Real statutes – It concerns itself with property-related matters like the Land Acquisition Act, Transfer of Property Act, 1882, and Indian Easements Act, 1882.
  • Remedial statutes – It is opposite to penal statute and is civil in nature. It provides remedies like injunction, restitution, penal damages, compensation, etc. to those who violate the civil or private rights of individuals. Its primary objective is to promote welfare in society. Thus, through this statute, the legislation either redress existing grievances or introduces new regulations.

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