Act becomes Law when notified in Gazette of India

When does an Act become Law? When does an Act passed by Parliament become enforceable? How is an Act notified to public at large?

1. Parliamentary Procedure in brief

After a Draft Bill is passed by both Houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha), it goes to the President of India for assent. Only after receiving President’s assent the Bill becomes an Act. And herefrom begins the process for an Act to become Law.

Parliamentary procedure, Gazette Notification and relevant Supreme Court and High Court Judgments on how an Act becomes Law.
Notification in Gazette of India is essential so that an Act becomes Law

2. Publication in Gazette of India

Thereafter, the last step in Law making procedure is publication of the Act in Gazette of India. This is also termed as Notification. In other words, the Act has been notified to public at large when it is published in Gazette of India. Infact this is the only recognised method i.e., official way, of informing the public about a new law. Which also means that no citizen can thereafter plead ignorance of the said law.

As far as commencement of operation of the notified law is concerned :

  1. The date of coming into force, if mentioned in the published Act in Gazette of India, would be the date when it shall become enforceable.
  2. If the date of coming into force is not mentioned in the published Act in Gazette of India, then the date it receives assent of the President shall be the date when it becomes enforceable.
  3. The date of coming into force can also be postponed by the Government to any future date. In which case, the entire enactment or parts thereof shall come into force on a date appointed by Government through a notification in the Gazette of India.

3. Supreme Court / High Court Judgments

3.1 Supreme Court in Mayer Hanse George AIR 1965 SC 722

There would be no question of individual service of a general notification on every member of the public and all that the subordinate law making body can or need do, would be to publish it in such a manner that persons can, if they are interested, acquaint themselves with its contents.

3.2 Delhi High Court in CRP 458/2005

Section 5 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 states that any Central enactment not expressed to come into operation on any particular date, shall come into operation on the date it receives assent of the President. Therefore, a central enactment comes into force or operation on the date it receives presidential assent. This general rule is, however, subject to a specific provision in the enactment to the contrary. The legislature can postpone commencement of an Act to a future date. It can delegate and empower the appropriate government to decide and fix a date on which the entire enactment or parts thereof shall come into force. The central government can also be permitted to fix different dates on which an enactment shall come into force in different parts of the country.

4. Law Commission of India’s Report

60th Report of the Law Commission of India talks in detail about commencement of operation of an enactment and why the Government may decide to delay the same:

No specific date may be mentioned in the Act, the date may be left to the Central Government to be appointed by notification in the Official Gazette. This device has been called by Sir Cocil T. Carr as the “appointed day” clause device. This device is resorted to when postponement of the commencement of an Act is necessitated by reason of appointments to be made under the Act, or rules to be framed thereunder and other preliminary arrangements to be carried out for the proper and effective functioning of the Act, or by reason of any change being made by the Act in status or rights the effect of which it is desirable to delay, or by reason of new conditions being imposed on a section of the public which makes it desirable, that they should have time to adjust themselves to the new law. In this connection, Sir Cocil Carr remarks “When Parliament makes big constitutional or administrative changes, it is convenient to take time over the various stages rather than to bring them into force immediately on the passing of the Act or upon any hard and fast date”.

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