Legal Blog: Distinction Between Mandatory and Directory Provisions in a Statute : The Law

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Distinction Between Mandatory and Directory Provisions in a Statute : The Law

Justice Dr. B.S. Chauhan

The Bench comprising Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice Swatanter Kumar of the Supreme Court, in May George v. Special Tehsildar & Ors., dealt with the distinction between Directory provisions and Mandatory provisions as contained in a statute, in a matter involving the interpretation of Section 9 of the  Land Acquisition Act. The Bench culled out the distinction between the two aspects, observing inter alia that;

12. The only question remains for our consideration is as to whether the provisions of Section 9(3) are mandatory in nature and non-compliance thereof, would vitiate the Award and subsequent proceedings under the Act. Section 4 Notification manifests the tentative opinion of the Authority to acquire the land. However, Section 6 Declaration is a conclusive proof thereof. The Land Acquisition Collector acts as Representative of the State, while holding proceedings under the Act, he conducts the proceedings on behalf of the State. Therefore, he determines the pre-existing right which is recognised by the Collector and guided by the findings arrived in determining the objections etc. and he quantifies the amount of compensation to be placed as an offer on behalf of the appropriate government to the person interested. It is for the tenure holder/person interested to accept it or not. In case, it is not acceptable to him, person interested has a right to ask the Collector to make a reference to the Tribunal.

13. Section 9(3) of the Act reads as under :-
“The Collector shall also serve notice to the same effect on the occupier (if any) of such land and on all such persons known or believed to be interested therein, or to be entitled to act for persons so interested, as reside or have agents authorized to receive service on their behalf, within the revenue district in which the land is situate”
Section 9 of the Act provides for an opportunity to the “person interested” to file a claim petition with documentary evidence for determining the market value of the land and in case a person does not file a claim under Section 9 even after receiving the notice, he still has a right to make an application for making a reference under Section 18 of the Act. Therefore, scheme of the Act is such that it does not cause any prejudicial consequence in case the notice under Section 9(3) is not served upon the person interested.

14. While determining whether a provision is mandatory or directory, in addition to the language used therein, the Court has to examine the context in which the provision is used and the purpose it seeks to achieve. It may also be necessary to find out the intent of the legislature for enacting it and the serious and general inconveniences or injustice to persons relating thereto from its application. The provision is mandatory if it is passed for the purpose of enabling the doing of something and prescribes the formalities for doing certain things.

15. In Dattatraya Moreshwar Vs. The State of Bombay & Ors., AIR 1952 SC 181, this Court observed that law which creates public duties is directory but if it confers private rights it is mandatory. Relevant passage from this judgment is quoted below:–
“It is well settled that generally speaking the provisions of the statute creating public duties are directory and those conferring private rights are imperative. When the provision of a statute relate to the performance of a public duty and the case is such that to hold null and void acts done in neglect of this duty would work serious general inconvenience or injustice to persons who have no control over those entrusted with the duty and at the same time would not promote the main object of legislature, it has been the practice of the Courts to hold such provisions to be directory only the neglect of them not affecting the validity of the acts done.”
16. A Constitution Bench of this Court in State of U.P. & Ors. Vs. Babu Ram Upadhya AIR 1961 SC 751, decided the issue observing :- 
“For ascertaining the real intention of the Legislature, the Court may consider, inter alia, the nature and the design of the statute, and the consequences which would follow from construing it the one way or the other, the impact of other provisions whereby the necessity of complying with the provisions in question is avoided, the circumstance, namely, that the statute provides for a contingency of the non-compliance with the provisions, the fact that the non-compliance with the provisions is or is not visited by some penalty, the serious or trivial consequences that flow therefrom, and, above all, whether the object of the legislation will be defeated or furthered.”
17. In Raza Buland Sugar Co. Ltd., Rampur Vs. Municipal Board, Rampur AIR 1965 SC 895; and State of Mysore Vs. V.K. Kangan, AIR 1975 SC 2190, this Court held that as to whether a provision is mandatory or directory, would, in the ultimate analysis, depend upon the intent of the law-maker and that has to be gathered not only from the phraseology of the provision but also by considering its nature, its design and the consequence which would follow from construing it in one way or the other. 

18. In Sharif-Ud-Din Vs. Abdul Gani Lone AIR 1980 SC 303, this Court held that the difference between a mandatory and directory rule is that the former requires strict observance while in the case of latter, substantial compliance of the rule may be enough and where the statute provides that failure to make observance of a particular rule would lead to a specific consequence, the provision has to be construed as mandatory.

19. Similar view has been reiterated by this Court in Balwant Singh & Ors. Vs. Anand Kumar Sharma & Ors. (2003) 3 SCC 433; Bhavnagar University Vs. Palitana Sugar Mill Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. AIR 2003 SC 511; and Chandrika Prasad Yadav Vs. State of Bihar & Ors., AIR 2004 SC 2036.

20. In M/s. Rubber House Vs. M/s. Excellsior Needle Industries Pvt. Ltd. AIR 1989 SC 1160, this Court considered the provisions of the Haryana (Control of Rent & Eviction) Rules, 1976, which provided for mentioning the amount of arrears of rent in the application and held the provision to be directory though the word “shall” has been used in the statutory provision for the reason that non-compliance of the rule, i.e. non-mentioning of the quantum of arrears of rent did involve no invalidating consequence and also did not visit any penalty.

21. In B.S. Khurana & Ors. Vs. Municipal Corporation of Delhi & Ors. (2000) 7 SCC 679, this Court considered the provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, particularly those dealing with transfer of immovable property owned by the Municipal Corporation. After considering the scheme of the Act for the purpose of transferring the property belonging to the Corporation, the Court held that the Commissioner could alienate the property only on obtaining the prior sanction of the Corporation and this condition was held to be mandatory for the reason that the effect of non-observance of the statutory prescription would vitiate the transfer though no specific power had been conferred upon the Corporation to transfer the property.

22. In State of Haryana & Anr. Vs. Raghubir Dayal (1995) 1 SCC 133, this Court has observed as under:–
“The use of the word ‘shall’ is ordinarily mandatory but it is sometimes not so interpreted if the scope of the enactment, on consequences to flow from such construction would not so demand. Normally, the word ‘shall’ prima facie ought to be considered mandatory but it is the function of the Court to ascertain the real intention of the legislature by a careful examination of the whole scope of the statute, the purpose it seeks to serve and the consequences that would flow from the construction to be placed thereon. The word ‘shall’, therefore, ought to be construed not according to the language with which it is clothed but in the context in which it is used and the purpose it seeks to serve. The meaning has to be described to the word ‘shall; as mandatory or as directory accordingly. Equally, it is settled law that when a statute is passed for the purpose of enabling the doing of something and prescribes the formalities which are to be attended for the purpose, those prescribed formalities which are essential to the validity of such thing, would be mandatory. However, if by holding them to be mandatory, serious general inconvenience is caused to innocent persons or general public, without very much furthering the object of the Act, the same would be construed as directory.”
23. In Gullipilli Sowria Raj Vs. Bandaru Pavani @ Gullipili Pavani (2009) 1 SCC 714, this Court while dealing with a similar issue held as under :
“…The expression “may” used in the opening words of Section 5 is not directory,as has been sought to be argued, but mandatory and non-fulfilment thereof would not permit a marriage under the Act between two Hindus. Section 7 of the 1955 Act is to be read along with Section 5 in that a Hindu Marriage, as understood under Section 5, could be solemnised according to the ceremonies indicated therein” 
24. The law on this issue can be summarised to the effect that in order to declare a provision mandatory, the test to be applied is as to whether non-compliance of the provision could render entire proceedings invalid or not. Whether the provision is mandatory or directory, depends upon the intent of Legislature and not upon the language for which the intent is clothed. The issue is to be examined having regard to the context, subject matter and object of the statutory provisions in question. The Court may find out as what would be the consequence which would flow from construing it in one way or the other and as to whether the Statute provides for a contingency of the non-compliance of the provisions and as to whether the non-compliance is visited by small penalty or serious consequence would flow therefrom and as to whether a particular interpretation would defeat or frustrate the legislation and if the provision is mandatory, the act done in breach thereof will be invalid.

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