Friday, 8 January 2016

A statute must be read as a whole in its context

Act as a whole in context
The words of any statutory provision must be first read in the context provided by the statute as a whole (Attorney-General v. Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover (1957) AC 436, at pp 461, 473; Maunsell v. Olins (1975) AC 373, at p 386; Black-Clawson Ltd. v. Papierwerke A.G. [1975] UKHL 2; (1975) AC 591, at p 613) but "if, when so read, the meaning of the section is literally clear and unambiguous, nothing remains but to give effect to the unqualified words": Metropolitan Gas Co. v. Federated Gas Employees' Industrial Union [1925] HCA 5; (1925) 35 C.L.R 449, at p 455; Cooper Brookes (Wollongong) Pty. Ltd. v. Federal Commissioner of Taxation [1981] HCA 26; (1981) 147 CLR 297, at pp 304-305. [cited from at para4K. & S. LAKE CITY FREIGHTERS PTY. LTD. v. GORDON & GOTCH LTD. [1985] HCA 48; (1985) 157 CLR 309]
"It is well-settled principle that while interpreting a statute, the interpretative function of the court is to discover the true legislative intent. A statute is best interpreted when we know why it was enacted. It must be read, first as a whole, and then section by section, clause by clause, phrase by phrase and word by word and therefore, taking into consideration the contextual connotation and the scheme of the Act, its provisions in their entirety,..["Consortium Self Financing v. State of TN - WP.20212 of 2007 [2007] INTNHC 2130 (2 July 2007)'The key to the opening of every law is the reason and spirit of the law, it is the animus imponentis, the intention of the law maker expressed in the law itself, taken as a whole."STATE OF PUNJAB V. BALBIR SINGH [1994] INSC 152; AIR 1994 SC 1872; 1994 (3) SCC 299; 1994 (2) JT 108; 1994 (1) SCALE 793 (1 March 1994)
The following are the citations  taken from  a Canadian Court decision. As these rule appear at one place ,the same are given without any editing.[Blogger]
"The authorities on the interpretation of statutes generally agree that a statute is to be read as a whole and that every clause is to be construed with reference to the other clauses of the act and its context, to the greatest extent possible.  (Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes and Driedger on Construction of Statutes.)
In discussing the ejusdem generis rule, Driedger points out that the rule is not a rule of law but rather a principle of language which can serve as a starting point to interpretation.   However, the question of whether the rule should be applied only arises after first examining whether the substantive context or the object of the act is sufficient to determine the scope of the general words.  Only if they are not should the verbal context be looked at, and consideration given to whether the specific words should be read as controlling the scope of the general words.  But where there is a conflict between the verbal context and the substantive context, the substantive prevails.
Under the ejusdem generis rule, general words may be restricted to the same genus as the specific words preceding them.  In order to apply the rule it is necessary to ascertain the genus of the specific words which must be found to possess some common and dominant feature.   If no class can be found, then the rule cannot apply and, according to Driedger, a broad construction is to be favoured.
     The noscitur a sociis rule sets out that the meaning of a doubtful word may be ascertained by reference to the meaning of the words associated with it.   In this way, also, the meaning of the more general is restricted to a sense analogous to the less general, except where it would be contrary to the intention of the statute as a whole to do so.
And, finally, there is a general presumption that the same expression in a statute is presumed to be used in the same sense throughout an act.  It follows, therefore, that where the wording is changed, a change in meaning is also presumed.  "
Cited from
 Jmaiff v. The Grand Forks Rural Fire Protection District, 1990 CanLII 242 (BC S.C.)

A statute must be read as a whole in its context.’ Discuss. [16] Dec 07, Dec 05, 03, 02, 01, 2K
Introduction: Webster's New World Dictionary gives the meaning of the word ‘interpretation’ as ‘the act or result of interpreting; explanation, meaning, translation, exposition etc’ and that of ‘construction’ as ‘the act or process of constructing the way in which something is constructed; manner or method of building’. Lastly, Webster defines ‘statutory’ as fixed, authorized or established by statute.’ Therefore, by statutory interpretation we mean explanation, meaning, translation or interpretation of statutes or enacted laws.
Statute must be read as a whole in its context
Whenever the question arises as to the meaning of a certain provision in a statute, it is proper and legitimate to read that provision in its context. This means that the statute must be read as a whole. What was the previous state of the law, study of other statutes in pari materia i.e., on the same matter, if there are any, what is the general scope of the statute and what is the mischief which it wanted to remedy, all these questions are to be considered here.
Lord Greene, M.R. said, ‘To ascertain the meaning of a clause in a statute the courts must look at the whole statute, at what precedes and at what succeeds and not merely at the clause itself and the method of construing statutes that I prefer, is to read the statute as a whole and ask oneself the question: In this state, in this context, relating to this subject- matter, what is true meaning of that word?’ In the words of Lord Halsbury, “I agree that you must look at the whole instrument in as much as there may be inaccuracy and inconsistency; you must, if you can, ascertain what is the meaning of the instrument taken as a whole in order to give effect, if it be possible to do so, to the intention of the framer of it.’ It is now firmly established as a rule that the intention of the Legislature must be found by reading the statute as a whole.
The conclusion that the language used by the legislature is plain or ambiguous can only be truly arrived at by studying the statute as a whole. Words take colour from the context in which they are used, keeping pace with the time. Words used as an adjective draws colour from the context too. The same word may mean one thing in one context and another in different context, therefore, the same word used in different sections of a statute or even when used at different places in the same clause or section of a statute may bear different meanings. That is why it is necessary to read the statute as a whole in its context.
Although the court would be justified to some extent in examining the materials for finding out the true legislative intent engrafted in a statute, but the same would be done only when the statute itself is ambiguous or a particular meaning given to a particular provision of the statute would make the statute unworkable or the very purpose of enacting the statute should get frustrated. But it is not open for a court to expand even the language used in the preamble to extract the meaning of the statute or to find out the latent intention of the legislature in enacting the statute.
While making contextual interpretation, the roots of the past, the foliage of the present and the seeds of the future cannot be lost sight of. Context quite often provides the key to the meaning of the word and the sense it should carry. Its setting would give colour to it and provide a cue to the intention of the legislature in using it. A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged. It is the skin of living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstance and the time in which the same is used. When a word or expression is not defined in an enactment, the courts apply the ‘subject-and- object’ rule to ascertain carefully the subject of the enactment where the word or expression occurs and have regard to the object, which the legislature has in view.
In matters of interpretation one should not concentrate too much on one word and pay too little attention to other words as no words or expressions used in any statute can be said to be redundant or superfluous. Every provision and every word must be looked at generally and in the context in which it is used and not in isolation. Every part of the provision has to be given meaning and effect in the context of the statute.
The Supreme Court in construing the word ‘sale’ in the Madras General Sales Tax Act, 1939 before its amendment in 1947, held that the definition of ‘sale’ as it then stood laid stress on the element of transfer of property and that the mere fact that the contract for sale was entered into within the province of Madras did not make the transaction, which was completed in another province, a sale taxable within the meaning of the Act. In arriving at that conclusion, the Supreme Court referred to the title, preamble, definition and other enacting provisions of the statute as also to the subsequent amendments made in the statute. B.K. Mukherjee J said, “It is a settled rule of construction that to ascertain the legislative intent, all the constituent parts of a statute are to be taken together and each word, phrase or sentence is to be considered in the light of the general purpose of the Act itself.”
In Jennings v. Kelly it was held that the principle that the statute must be read as a whole is equally applicable to different parts of the same section. The section must be construed as a whole whether or not one of the parts is a saving clause or a proviso. .
Conclusion: A statute cannot always be construed with the dictionary in one hand and statute in the other. Regard must be had to the scheme, context and to the legislative history of the provision. Every provision and every word must be looked at generally and in the context in which it is used and not in isolation. Every part of the provision has to be given meaning and effect in the context of the statute. Thus, the statute must be read as a whole in its context.

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