Manual on Plain Language Drafting

How to draft laws in plain language

Summary: This manual provides guidelines and illustrations regarding legislative drafting, both in relation with general language and structuring as well as the phrasing of specific kinds of commonly used provisions.

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.