Retrospective

In the case of State Bank’s Staff Union (Madras Circle) v. Union of India and Ors. reported in, (2005) 7 SCC 584, Supreme Court noticed and defined the expression “retrospective” as under:

Every sovereign legislature possesses the right to make retrospective legislation. The power to make laws includes the power to give it retrospective effect. Craies on Statute Law (7th Edn.) at p. 387 defines retrospective statutes in the following words:

A statute is to be deemed to be retrospective, which takes away or impairs any vested right acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, or imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability in respect to transactions or considerations already past.

Judicial Dictionary (13th Edn.) by K.J. Aiyar, Butterworth, p. 857, states that the word “retrospective” when used with reference to an enactment may mean (i) affecting an existing contract; or (ii) reopening up of past, closed and completed transaction; or (iii) affecting accrued rights and remedies; or (iv) affecting procedure. Words and Phrases, Permanent Edn., Vol. 37-A, pp. 224-25, defines a “retrospective or retroactive law” as one which takes away or impairs vested or accrued rights acquired under existing laws. A retroactive law takes away or impairs vested rights acquired under existing laws, or creates a new obligation, imposes a new duty, or attaches a new disability, in respect to transactions or considerations already past.

In Advanced Law Lexicon by P. Ramanath Aiyar (3rd Edn., 2005) the expressions “retroactive” and “retrospective” have been defined as follows at p. 4124, Vol. 4:

Retroactive.-Acting backward; affecting what is past. (Of a statute, ruling, etc.) extending in scope or effect to matters that have occurred in the past. – Also termed retrospective. (Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th Edn., 1999)

‘ “Retroactivity” is a term often used by lawyers but rarely defined. On analysis it soon becomes apparent, moreover, that it is used to cover at least two distinct concepts. The first, which may be called “true retroactivity”, consists in the application of a new rule of law to an act or transaction which was completed before the rule was promulgated. The second concept, which will be referred to as “quasi-retroactivity”, occurs when a new rule of law is applied to an act or transaction in the process of completion…. The foundation of these concepts is the distinction between completed and pending transactions…’ T.C. Hartley, Foundations of European Community Law, p. 129 (1981).


Retrospective.-Looking back; contemplating what is past.

Having operation from a past time.

‘Retrospective’ is somewhat ambiguous and that good deal of confusion has been caused by the fact that it is used in more senses than one. In general, however, the courts regard as retrospective any statute which operates on cases or facts coming into existence before its commencement in the sense that it affects, even if for the future only, the character or consequences of transactions previously entered into or of other past conduct. Thus, a statute is not retrospective merely because it affects existing rights; nor is it retrospective merely because a part of the requisite for its action is drawn from a time antecedent to its passing.” (Vol. 44, Halsbury’s Laws of England, 4th Edn., p. 570, para 921.)


JT 2011 (12) SC 125 : (2011) 11 SCALE 489

%d bloggers like this: