Interpretation Of Statutes

Meaning of interpretation: 

In India, the lawmaking power rests with the legislature. The legislated law or statute law has attained supremacy over all other sources of law. The courts are supposed to administer justice according to the mandate of law enacted by the legislature. It is the duty of the court to apply law therefore it is necessary to understand the language of statute in its correct and true sense so that the intention of legislature is carried out properly and the purpose for which statute was enacted is achieved.

Interpretation plays a very important role in determining the meaning of the given intention of the legislation. 

Interpretation means the art of finding out the true sense of an enactment by giving the words of the enactment their natural and ordinary meaning.

Interpretation is a process which is adopted for ascertaining the meaning of writings or intent of the framers of the document. 

According to Salmond, interpretation is the process by which “seek to a certain the meaning of legislation through the medium of authoritative forms in which it is expressed.

If the statute law is rigid and found within the limits of authoritative letters the words of statutes are considered clear. Where the words of the statute I’m not clear, the court can exercise its discretion to interpret the statute in accordance with its object and purpose.

Interpretation and Construction:

Construction is an act or process of constructing or a man or method of building.

 Interpretation is the art of finding out the true sense of any form of words and enabling others to derive from the same idea. 

Types of Interpretation:

1.Strict Interpretation: Also known as literal or grammatical Interpretation. When the words are given their ordinary meaning and the meaning of the statute is clear and unambiguous, it is the duty of the court not to modify the language of the given statute.

Exceptions : In cases where the laws are ambiguous, inconsistent, are unreasonable or any lacunae(incompleteness) the court can modify it to make sense out of it.

2. Logical Interpretation: also known as Liberal interpretation. Words of a statute give rise to two or more constructions at the same time, then the construction which validates the object of the act must be given effect. While interpreting the statute the spirit of the legislature should also be taken into account.

Object and Purpose of Interpretation:

  1. Interpretation of statutes helps in determining the intention of Legislature conveyed expressly or impliedly in the language used in it. 
  2. Statutes are drawn up in the form of language coma which gives rise to uncertainty and inexactness, therefore There will be a need of interpreting statutes so that their correct meaning may be ascertained. 
  3. Interpretation also helps in interpreting the statute as per the changed circumstances for the new development in the social era. Example: the development of the laws related to adultery and homosexual relationships. 
  4. Interpretation help in removing any confusion Between the laws statutes.
  5. Language is full of ambiguities. The ambiguous term or phrase is capable of either giving several meanings for being understood in more than one  senses that is when interpretation comes into play.
  6. Interpretation of statute is needed to make the statute effective and operative.
  7.  Only Judiciary can interpret the law and only through it, the ambiguities in law or can be made clear. 

The necessity to interpret a provision: 

What used are certain and precise and have only one meaning, there is no need to expound the words. if the languages plain and explicit should be given effect. the rules of interpretation can be invoked only if there is any doubt with regard to the language used. a statute is to be interpreted when it is ambiguous full stop but when the words of a statute are clear and plain and have one meaning the courts are bound to give effect that meaning irrespective of the consequences.

Keshavji Ravji & Co. v. C.I.T 

The apex court observed that as long as there is no ambiguity in the statutory language No other interpreter process is to be used or applied in the statutory language which is otherwise ambiguous.

In other cases as well it was observed that  the intention of the legislature cannot be enlarged when the language of the provision is plain and unambiguous.In other words, statutory enactment must be construed according to their plain meaning and no words shall be added altered or modified Unless it is necessary to do so to prevent a provision from being unreasonable or absurd with the rest of the statute. The rules of interpretation would come into play only if there is any doubt with regard to the language used.

Primary rules of interpretation judges in England generally apply three basic rules of statutory interpretation and similar rules also are used in other common jurisdictions which are :

  1.  Literal rule: Under the literal rule it is the task of the court to give a statute’s word their literal meaning regardless of whether the result is sensible or not. it means to give the word their ordinary, natural and plain meaning, prima facie to read the statutory language in the ordinary and primary sense which it bears in the content context without  omission or addition.

 It is also known as the plain meaning rule full stop where wordings of a statute are clear and there is no ambiguity as regards to the meaning of words the literal rule applies. If the word is clear  it must be applied even though the result is Harsha undesirable. the literal rule is what the law says instead of what the law means.

  Advantages of Literal Rule : 

  •  It prevents courts from taking sides in Legislative or political issues as the plain meaning of the statute is applied.
  •  Ordinary people and lawyers do not have access to the secondary sources and does it depend on ordinary meaning of the word is the safest route.
  •  It encourages precision in drafting.

          Disadvantages of Literal Rule :

  •  words are imprecise leading justices to impose their own prejudice to determine the meaning of the statute.
  • Sometimes the use of literal rule may defeat the intention of the Parliament. so if the Parliament does not like the literal interpretation then it must amend the legislation.
  •  it ignores the limitation of language as sometimes the meaning of words as well go through change / changes. 
  •  it places undue emphasis on the literal meaning of the words. 

 Case laws:

J.P Bansal v. State of Rajasthan (2003)

 The supreme court observed that the intention of the Legislature is primarily to be gathered from the language used, which means that attention should be paid to what has been said and also to what has not been said. Therefore the construction which requires addition, substitution or removal of words has to be avoided.