Manual on Plain Language Drafting

Reports by Public Law ยท March 15, 2017
Author(s): Arghya Sengupta and Namrata Mukherjee

Indian laws have often been criticised for poor drafting, which makes them difficult to read. There is over-reliance on archaic drafting elements such as provisos, notwithstanding clauses, gendered and non-inclusive terms, and the use of foreign terms. Complex legal drafting goes against the grain of a democratic and participatory society as it reduces accessibility of the law to the common man.

 

With the object of making laws simple and accessible to all, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy engineered this manual for plain language drafting. The first part of the report provides crisp guidelines on how best to structure a law (the order of chapters and clauses, structural elements of preliminary clauses, definitions etc.), and how it can be streamlined and simplified. The second part of the report sets out guidelines on language, including the use of foreign words, grammar, and sentence construction.

 

Finally, in order to demonstrate how a law can be simplified, the report applies these principles to redraft and an existing law. With this report, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy hopes to act as a springboard from which the much-needed journey towards simpler legal drafting can begin in India.

Download the Manual on Plain Language Drafting


About Arghya Sengupta:

Arghya is the Founder and Research Director at Vidhi. His areas of specialisation are constitutional law and regulation of the digital economy. He has served on a number of government committees including most recently the Justice B.N. Srikrishna-led committee of experts on a data protection framework for India. Arghya has a number of academic publications on the Supreme Court, Parliament, fundamental rights in leading law journals such as Law Quarterly Review and Public Law. He is also a columnist at The Telegraph, The Hindustan Times and The Times of India. He has most recently authored a book "Independence and Accountability of the Indian Higher Judiciary" (Cambridge, 2019) which builds on his doctoral work at Oxford University. Prior to founding Vidhi, he was at Oxford as a Lecturer in Administrative Law at Pembroke College. Link to full bio


About Namrata Mukherjee:

Namrata was a Research Fellow in the Vidhi Aidl. She graduated from the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) with a B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) in 2016. At NUJS her areas of engagement included human rights, labour law, inter-disciplinary research, gender, sexuality and the law, and philosophy. Prior to joining Vidhi, she interned with advocates as well as in organisations such as the Alternative Law Forum and Centre for Equity Studies.