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How to identify whether the provision is a sub-section or a clause?

A sub-section is a part of a section, whereas a clause maybe a part of either a section or a sub-section. If a section doesn’t have any sub-sections within it but has clauses instead, it gets difficult to distinguish between a sub-section and a clause. Let’s understand how we can make this distinction without any confusion. When parts of a section are interrelated, or when one whole provision emerges out by putting all the parts of the section together, then those parts are referred to as sub-sections. Whereas, when these parts are independent of each other and are not interrelated then these are referred to as clauses.

For example, Section 2 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (which deals with definitions for purposes of the Act) has all ‘clauses’ and these parts are not ‘sub-section’ as these parts are independent of each other and not co-related. See section 2(1) - defines “advance tax”, section 2(1A) - defines “agricultural income”, section 2(31) - “persons” and so on and these parts are not co-related to project a whole provision. Similarly section 10(1) - agricultural income, section 10(2A) - share of total income of the firm, section 10(5)-travel concession or assistance and so on are all ‘clauses’. As they are not interrelated (1), (2A), (5) and so on are ‘clause’ of section 10. Similar is the case with sections 6, 43, 47 and so on

Again examples of parts being sub-sections may be seen in sections 1, 44AD, 139 and so on as parts of these sections like section 1(1), 1(2), 1(3) and 44AD (1), 44AD (2), 44AD (6), 139 (4) and 139 (9) are interrelated and one whole provision of the respective section emerges out by putting together all the parts of these sections.

There is one clue to locate a ‘clause’ in a section. Where soon after the reference of section something is stated and thereafter a reference is made like (1) then that (1) is a ‘clause’ and where soon after the reference of section without stating anything a reference is made like (1) then that (1) is a sub-section. Let me clarify this observation, refer section 2 in which after 2 it is stated as “In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,” then (1) is stated. Therefore (1) is a ‘clause’ of section 2. Similarly all other such references like (1A), (7), (24) of section 2 are ‘clauses’. Again see section 10 in which after 10 it is stated “In computing the total income of a previous year of any person, any income falling within any of the following clauses shall not be included” then (1) is stated. Therefore (1) is a ‘clause’ of section 10. Now refer section 1, without stating anything a reference of (1) is made therefore this (1) is a sub-section of section 1. Similarly refer section 4, here also without stating anything a reference of (1) is made therefore this (1) is a sub-section of section 4.

Another noticeable difference is that a sub-section starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop whereas a clause starts with a small letter and ends with a semicollon. But the last clause ends with a full stop. This is because a sub-section is a complete sentence whereas a clause is a part of a sentence.

Keeping the above in mind for ‘sub-sections’ refer sections 1, 4, 5, 5A, 9, 11, 12 and similar other sections and for ‘clauses’ refer sections 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 16, 17, 24, 27, 28 and so on.

Examples of incorrect legal reference in the Act due to confusion or otherwise between a clause and a sub-section may be found below:

1. In Explanation to section 2(24) (xi) reference of “clause” is wrong, it should be “sub-clause” as (24) is a clause of section 2.

2. In item (fa) of sub-clause (iv) of section 10(15) there is a reference of “sub-section (6) of section 6” as stated earlier it should be “clause (6) of section 6”.

3. In proviso to section 5(1) reference of “sub-section (6) of section 6” is wrong; it should be “clause (6) of section 6”. In Explanation (a) to section 6(1), there is a reference of sub-clause (c) of section 6(1). In section 6, when (c) is a sub-clause then (1) cannot be a sub-section but a clause. Similarly (6) is a clause and not a sub-section.

4. In Explanation 2 below  fifth proviso to section 32(1) reference of “clause (c) of sub-section (6) of section 43” is wrong; it should be “sub-clause (c) of clause (6) of section 43”

5. In section 288(4) there are references of “sub-clause (a)”, “sub-clause (b)” and “sub-clause (c)” which are wrong; they should be “clause (a)”, “clause (b)” and “clause (c)” The mistake will be evident from the reading of section 288(6) where reference is correctly made as “clause (b) of sub-section (4).

ITKP on July 13 2015 17:47:50

Sir though you had made it much clear in your earlier article and I had understood the difference still I got confused many times. Now I can differentiate between sub-section and clause very easily.
Thank u Sir.

avinash kumar on July 13 2015 21:07:09

Very easy to understand the sub section and clause to section of it act after reading of the article.
Very useful article for everyone.
Explained in very simple words. Thanks sir

Bandana Diwedi on July 19 2015 19:29:47

Thank you Dada for enlightening us on the issue. The earlier article on the subject was an eye opener after being in the department for so many years. This article has made the topic crystal clear. you have brought on the defects in the Act as well.This goes to show your through understanding of the concept.A big salute to you and thanks again for sharing it with us.

lathakumar on July 24 2015 13:29:18

Thank you Sir for this clarification. Earlier, I used to just mechanically read the clauses /sections of the act, now I am careful in reading out the correct word of whether it is a sub-section or clause.

nka on April 28 2016 15:50:21

truly enriching ! Thanks Dada.

Jitendra Kumar Verma on July 30 2016 08:28:54

Crystals clear .. Thank you Dada Smile

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