Explanatory Legislations

Though retrospectivity is not to be presumed and rather there is presumption against retrospectivity, it is open for Legislature to enact laws having retrospective operation.

Where a statute is passed for the purpose of supplying an obvious omission in a former statute or to ‘explain’ a former statute, the subsequent statute has relation back to the time when the prior Act was passed. The rule against retrospectivity is inapplicable to such legislations as are explanatory and declaratory in nature.”

Zile Singh vs. State of Haryana, (2004) 8 SCC 1.

It could thus be seen, it is material to ascertain legislative intent. Zile Singh has been subsequently followed in various Judgments, including in Commissioner of Income Tax-I, Ahmedabad v. Gold Coin Health Food Private Limited, (2008) 9 SCC 622.

Hon’ble Justice B.R. Gavai, Ghanashyam Mishra v. Edelweiss Asset Reconstruction Company Limited, [Civil Appeal No. 8129 of 2019].


State of Bihar v. S.K. Roy, (2005) 1 SCC 289 had upheld the well-recognized principle, in dealing with matters of construction, subsequent legislation may be looked at in order to see what is the proper interpretation to be put upon the earlier Act, where the earlier Act is obscure or ambiguous or readily capable of more than one interpretation.

Hon’ble Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Director of Income Tax, New Delhi v. M/s. Mitsubishi Corporation, [Civil Appeal No. 1262 of 2016] decided on 17.09.2021.


Also see, Union of India v. Mudrika Singh, [Civil Appeal No. 6859 of 2021] decided on 03.12.2021.