Restrictive and Extensive Definitions – Critically Analysed
A particular expression is often defined by the Legislature by using the words ‘means’ or the word ‘includes’. Sometimes the words ‘means and excludes’ 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 that is put down in the definition’. Generally, when the definition of a word begins with ‘means’ it is indicative of the fact that the meaning of the word has been restricted ie, it would not mean anything else but what has been indicated in the definition itself. 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 word ‘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’. Thus, when word ‘means’ is used the definition is prima facie restrictive and exhaustive whereas when word ‘includes’ is used, the definition is prima facie extensive.
Before going into the legal aspect of it there are certain terms we need to understand:-
In any statute, ‘definitions’ of certain words and expressions used elsewhere in the body of the statute are commonly found. The object of such a definition is to avoid the necessity of frequent repetitions in describing all the subject-matter to which the word or expression so defined is intended to apply. A definition clause may also borrow definitions from an earlier act which are not mentioned in the present definition section.
The principle is that all statutory definitions have to be read subject to be the qualifications variously expressed in the definition clauses which created them and it may be that even where the definition is exhaustive inasmuch as the word defined is said to mean a certain thing, it is possible for the word to have a somewhat different meaning in different sections of the Act depending upon the subject or context. That is why all definitions in statutes generally begin with qualifying words, namely ‘unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context.
In view of this qualification, the court has not only to look at the words but also to look at the context, the collocation and the subject of such words relating to such matter and interpret the meaning intended to be conveyed by the use of words ‘under those circumstances’
‘Interpreting a definition’
While interpreting a definition, it has to be borne in mind that the interpretation placed on it should not only be not repugnant to the context, it should also be such as would aid the achievement of the purpose which is sought to be served by the Act. A construction which would defeat or was likely to defeat the purposes of the Act has to be ignored and not accepted.
The definition contained in the definition clause of a particular statute should be used for the purposes of that Act. Definition from any other statute cannot be borrowed and used ignoring the definition contained in the statute itself.
A term or expression defined under a particular statute has its own scope or limits. Such a definition should not be either restricted or expanded by importing elements from other legal systems when there is no ambiguity in the definition.
‘Importance of a Definition’
Where a word or an expression is defined by the legislature, courts have to look to that definition; the general understanding of it cannot be determinative. That expression wherever it occurs in the Act, rules or notifications there under should be understood in the same sense. Even two similar terms may not mean the same thing if their definitions in two different statutes are at variance with each other. For example, in the interpretation of expression ‘Motor Vehicles’ occurring in Tariff Item under Central Excises and Salts Act 1944, reliance on definition contained in another Tariff Item was held to be proper.
‘Judicially Defined Words’
“It has long been a well-established principle to be applied in the construction of
an Act of Parliament that where a word of doubtful meaning has received a clear judicial interpretation, the subsequent statute which incorporates the same word or the same phrase in a similar context, must be construed so that the word or phrase is interpreted according to the meaning that has previously been assigned to it.”
‘Rule of Ejusdem generis’
The maxim ejusdem generis serves to restrict the meaning of a general word to things or matters of the same genus as the preceding particular words. It is well recognised rule of construction that when two or more words which are susceptible of analogous meaning are coupled together noscitur a sociis, they are understood to be used in their cognate sense. They take their colour from each other that is, the more general is restricted to a sense analogous to the less general.
In order to attract the principle of ejusdem generis, it is essential that a distinct
genus or category must be discernible in the words under examination. Where the statute imposes restriction on advertisement, publicity and sales promotion, the expression “sales promotion” cannot include selling expenses incurred in the ordinary course of business. Similarly, the words “other stationary plant” must be construed ejusdem generis with switchgears and transformers.The rule of ejusdem generis is to be applied “with caution” and “not pushed too far”. It may not be interpreted too narrowly and unnecessarily if broad based genus could be found so as to avoid cutting down words to dwarf size.
Definition framed by the legislature can be divided into three main types:-
(a) Restrictive and Extensive Definitions – The legislature has power to define a word even artificially. The definition of a word in the definition section may either be restrictive of its ordinary meaning or it may be extensive of the same.
(b) Ambiguous Definitions – Although it is normally presumed that the Legislature will be specially precise and careful in its choice of language in a definition section, at times the language used in such a section may itself require interpretation.
The definition section may itself be ambiguous and may have to be interpreted in the light of other provisions of the Act having regard to the ordinary connotation of the word defined. A definition is not read in isolation. It must be read in the context of the phrases which it defines, realizing that the function of a definition is to give precision and certainty to a word or phrase which would otherwise be vague and uncertain but not to contradict but not to contradict it or supplant it altogether. Any word or phrase used or defined in a statute generally must be taken to have been used in its ordinary sense. Only in the case of vagueness or ambiguity a word may be so interpreted so as to add something to the statutory definition.
(c) Definitions are Subject to Contrary Context – When a word has been defined in the interpretation clause, prima facie that definition governs whenever that word is used in the body of the statute. But where the context makes the definition given in the interpretation clause inapplicable, a defined word when used in the body of the statute may have to be given a meaning different from that contained in the interpretation clause; all definition given in an interpretation clause are, therefore, normally enacted subject to the qualification – ‘unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context’ or ‘unless the context otherwise requires’. Even in the absence of an express qualification to that effect such a qualification is always implied. The onus to prove exclusion on the basis of these words is on the person alleging such exclusion.However, it is incumbent on those who contended that the definition given in the interpretation clause does not apply to a particular section t show that the context in fact so requires.
A critical study of the difference between Restrictive and Extensive Definitions:-
‘Difference between ‘means’ and ‘includes established’
During the interpretation of the definition of a ‘banking company’ in s 2(bb) of the Industrial Disputes Act 1947, the Supreme Court held that 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 other 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 team 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 compromise. Therefore, the use of the word ‘means’ followed by the word ‘includes’ in the definition of ‘banking company’ is clearly indicative of the legislative intent to make the definition exhaustive and would cover only those banking companies which fall within the definition and no other.
‘Is deemed to Include’
A definition section may also be worded in the form ‘is deemed to include’ which is also an inclusive or extensive definition and such a from is used to bring in by legal fiction something within the word defined which according to its ordinary meaning is not included within it.
A definition may include certain things and exclude certain other things, ie, a definition may be both inclusive and exclusive. Limited exclusion of a thing may suggest that other categories of that thing which are not excluded fall within apparently wide or inclusive definition. But if the purpose behind the exclusion clause so requires, exclusion clause may be given a liberal construction.
‘Use of the word ‘any’’
‘Any’ is a word of very wide meaning and prima facie the use of it excludes limitation. The opening part of the definition of the word ‘premises’ in s 2© of the WB Government Premises (Tenancy Regulation) Act 1976 employs the word ‘any’. Further, the said definition uses the word ‘includes’ in two places. It is well settled that the word ‘include’ is generally used in the interpretation clauses in order to enlarge the meaning of the words or phrases occurring in the body of the statute; and when it is so used those words or phrases must be construed as comprehending, not only such things as they signify according to their natural import, but also those things which the interpretation clause declares that they shall include.
‘Definition of ‘Bar’’
In Section 201(1) of Licensing Act, 1964, ‘bar’ is defined to include a place which is exclusively or mainly used for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor. Referring to this definition the House of Lords held that the use of the word ‘include’ showed that the definition did not exclude what would ordinarily and in common parlance be spoken of as a bar, and therefore counters used for serving liquor were held to be ‘bar’ within section 75(5) of the Act.
‘Definition of a ‘District Judge’’
The inclusive definition of ‘district judge’ in Article 236(a) of the Constitution has been very widely construed to include hierarchy of specialized Civil Courts viz. Labour Courts and Industrial Courts which are not expressly included in the definition.
A definition may be both inclusive and exclusive i.e it may include certain things and exclude others. Limited exclusion of a thing may suggest that other categories of that thing which are not excluded fall within apparently wide inclusive definition. But the exclusion clause may have to be given a liberal construction if the purpose behind it so requires.
‘Effect of the Use of Words “Includes” and “Shall Not Include” on the Scope of Definition’
Sometimes a definition employs both the words “includes” and “shall not include”. Such definition includes certain things and excludes others.
For example, the definition given in Section 2(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 reads “Decree means formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit and may be either preliminary or final. It shall be deemed to include the rejection of a plaint and the determination of any question within Section 144, but shall not include:-
(a) any adjudication from which an appeal lies as an appeal from an order or
(b) any order of dismissal for default.
The above discussion makes me aware of the importance of a definition clause. The discussion on restrictive and extensive definition made me understand the ways in which different words in a particular statute are interpreted, ie. weather they need to be construed in a strict on in a broad sense of that particular term. It also made me come face to face with the fact as to how a particular word in a statute changes its character according to the situation at hand.
# Tata Consultancy Services v State of AP (2005) 1 SCC 308
# P Kasilingam v PSG College of Technology AIR 1995 SC 1395
# (2003) 7 SCC 336
# Whirlpool Corpn v Registrar of Trade Marks (1998) 8 SCC 1
# KV Muthu V Anganuthu Ammal AIR 1997 SC 628
# (2003) 11 SCC 66
# Feroz N Dotivala v PM WAdhwani (2003) 1 SCC 433
# Suresh Lohiya v State of Maharahstra (1996) 10 SCC 397
# Prestige Engineering (India) Ltd v CCE (1994) 6 SCC 465
# Feroz N Dotivala v Pm Wadhwani (2003) 1 SCC 433
# Dunlop India Ltd. v Union of India 1994 Supp (2) SCC 335
# Barras vs. Aberdeen Steam Trawling and Fishing Co. Ltd. (1933) AC 402 (HL)
# CIT vs. Anglo India Jute Mills Co. Ltd. (1993) 202 ITR 104 (Cal.)
# U.P. State Electricity Board vs. Hari Shanker Jain AIR 1979 (SC) 65
# Re Wyke’s Will Trust (1961) 1 All ER 470
# Hotel and Catering etc Board v Automobile Proprietary Ltd (1968) 3v All ER 399
# Feroz N Dotivala v PM Wadhwani (2003) 1 SCC 433
# Indian Immigration Trust Board of Natal v Govindaswamy AIR 1920 PC 114
# Indian Cities Properties ltd. v Municipal Commissioner of Greater Bombay (2005) 6 SCC 417
# Knights Bridge Estates Trust Ltd. v Byrne (1940) AC 613
# Bharat Coop Bank (Mumbai) Ltd. v Coop Bank Employees Union (2007) 4 SCC 685
# Associated Indem Mechanical (p) Ltd v WB Industries Development Corpn Ltd (2007) 3 SCC 607
# Carter v Bradbeer, (1975) 3 All ER 158
# State of Maharashtra v. Labour Law Practitioners’ Association, AIR 1998 SC 1233
# Section 2(vi) of the Payment of Wages Act defining ‘wages’
# Narpatchand A. Bhandari v. Shantilal Moolshankar Jain, AIR 193 SC 1712
# Pioneer Rubber Plantation Nilambur v. State of Kerala, AIR 1993 SC 192
# D.N. Mathur Interpretation of Statutes – Central Law Publications
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