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Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal By: Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal
March 18, 2023
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Meaning of ‘Rule’

Section 3(51) of the General Clauses Act, 1897 defines ‘rule’ as under:

 “Rule shall mean a rule made in exercise of a power conferred by any enactment and shall include a regulation made under any enactment.”

The word ‘rule’ is defined in different laws differently viz,  Rule shall mean a rule made in exercise of a power conferred by any enactment, and shall include a regulation made as a rule under any enactment. [General Clauses Act, S.3 (51)].

Rules with reference to the rules relating in general to the constitution and management of an association, includes in the case of an incorporated association its memorandum and articles of association. [Forward Contracts (Regulation) Act, S.2(k)].

Following are also relevant, as quoted in P. Ramanatha Aiyar’s Advance Law Lexicon :

  • Rules, in a legal sense, mean laws.
  • A prescribed, suggested or self-imposed guide for conduct or action; a principle; a kind of regulation or bye-law; a principle regulating some action.
  • That which is prescribed or laid down as a guide to conduct; that which is settled by authority or custom; a regulation; a prescription; a minor law; a uniform course of things; the regulation adopted by a deliberative body for the conduct of its proceedings.
  • A rule is that which is prescribed for the guidance of conduct or action for instance a rule that Mulguzar and villagers must keep the village roads in order. A mere statement of liability in cash or kind enforceable at the option of another party cannot be held to be a rule, nor can the failure to discharge it be held to be contravention of the rule 14 NLJ 37 (Rev.).
  • Statutory rules, when validly made within the powers conferred by the Act, must be regarded as part of the Act itself and made with full authority of the Legislature. The rules must be held to be part of the Parent Act, and can do anything it can do if within its scope. 23 Pat 22.
  • A rule is a definite regulation prescribed as a law of conduct.
  • Rule cannot be equated with statute. The position will not be different even if the rule has been framed by virtue of the power vested under an enactment. KOLHAPUR CANESUGAR WORKS LTD. VERSUS UNION OF INDIA - 2000 (2) TMI 823 - SUPREME COURT.

Relevant Extracts of General Clauses Act, 1897

Construction of notifications etc., issued under enactments (Section 20) - Where, by any Central Act or regulation, a power to issue any notification, order, scheme, rule, form or bye-law is conferred, then expressions used in the notification, order, scheme, rule, form, or bye-law, if it is made after the commencement of this Act, shall unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context, have the same respective meanings as in the Act or  Regulation conferring the power.

Power to issue, to include power to add to, amend, vary or rescind orders, rules or bye-laws (Section 21) -Where, by any Central Act or Regulation, a power to issue notifications, orders, rules or bye-laws is conferred, then that power includes a power, exercisable in the like manner and subject to the like sanction and conditions (if any), to add to, amend, vary or rescind any notifications, orders, rules or bye-laws so issued.

Making of rules or bye-laws and issuing of orders between passing and commencement of enactment (Section 22) -Where, by any Central Act or Regulation which is not to come into force immediately on the passing thereof, a power is conferred to make rules or bye-laws, or to issue orders with respect to the application of the Act or Regulation, or with respect to the establishment of any Court or office or the appointment of any Judge or officer thereunder, or with respect to the person by whom, or the time when, or the place where, or the manner in which, or the fees for which, anything is to be done under the Act or Regulation, then that power may be exercised at any time after the passing of the Act or Regulation; but rules, bye-laws or orders so made or issued shall not take effect till the commencement of the Act or Regulation.

Provisions applicable to making of rules or bye-laws after previous publication (Section 23)  – Where, by any Central Act or Regulation, a power to make rules or bye-laws, is expressed to be given subject to the conditions of the rules or bye-laws being made after previous publication, then the following provisions shall apply, namely:

  1. the authority having power to make the rules or bye-laws shall, before making them, publish a draft of the proposed rules or bye-laws for the formation of persons likely to be affected thereby;
  2. the publications shall be made in such manner as that authority deems to be sufficient, or, if the conditions with respect to previous publication so requires, in such manner as the Government concerned pre­ scribes;
  3. there shall be published with the draft a notice specifying a date on or after which the draft will be taken into consideration;
  4. the authority having power to make the rules or bye-laws, and, where the rules or bye-laws are to be made with the sanction, approval or concurrence of another authority that authority also, shall consider any objection or suggestion which may be received by the authority having power to make the rules or bye-laws from any person with respect to the draft before the date so specified;
  5. the publication in the Official Gazette of a rule or bye-law purporting to have been made in exercise of a power to make rules or bye-laws after previous publication shall be conclusive proof that the rule or bye law has been duly made.

Assertions based on Judicial Pronouncements

So far as rules are concerned, it is important to note that:

  1. Rules are statutory but not part of statutes
  2. If the rules are prescribed in the original schedule, then they are considered as part of enactment.
  3. Rules may do anything but within the scope of the Act.
  4. A rule of a bye-law made under a statue cannot, unless there are express indications in the statute itself, override the provisions of other statutes or the general law.
  5. Rules are considered as an aid to the construction of statutes which are ambiguous.
  6. Rules framed under the act cannot be said to save the act.
  7. The validity of an Act of a competent legislature does not depend upon what some subordinate authority, which the rule-making authority is, chooses to do or not to do.
  8. Where two interpretations of a rule are possible, the one that makes it unworkable should be avoided. 


By: Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal - March 18, 2023



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