Wednesday, 20 January 2016


The rules of interpretation are soul of arid body of legislation.
With respect to modern principles of interpretation, Indian Courts have evolved number of rules of interpretation which can help them to resolve any sort of difficulty. These rules have major role to play in proper and beneficial implementation of law under the garb of different rule, expressions of interpretation. But before detailed discussion upon rules and expressions, it is important to keep in mind that to interpret any statute, three basic rules or processes are to be followed. These processes are:
1) Primary Rule of Interpretation: 
This rule has following steps involved which an interpreter has to follow:
a. Read and analyze a section;
b. Ascertain the primary meaning of the words used;
c. Ascertain the grammatical, literal and plain meaning of the words used in the section.
This rule has further been explained in detail in the name of ‘literal rule of interpretation’ in the subsequent submission.

2) Secondary Rule of Interpretation:
This rule is basically states about application of internal and external aids to ensure proper interpretation of statute. Application of Internal and External aids has been explained in the subsequent submission.

3) Final Rule of Interpretation:
Interpretation of every statute must be based upon the aforesaid primary and secondary rules. But there may be a situation when conflict may arise on simultaneous application of above rules, to avoid such conflict, final rule i.e. principle of harmonious construction come into picture. This rule has further been explained in the subsequent submission. Every effort should be made to ensure that all the primary and secondary rules are simultaneously satisfied.[17]
Here, it is also to be focus that certain specific statutes have specific pattern of Interpretation as enumerated in numerous case laws. To illustrate this point, following submission is important.
1) For Penal Statute, it is always need to have a strict interpretation[18] and with respect to mens rea it is always presumed that it is required to prove in each case unless the statute specifically provides for the absence of the same;
In the case of State of Andhra Pradesh v. Nagoti Venkataramana[19] , it has been held by the Supreme Court that in the interpretation of penal provisions, strict construction is required to be adopted and if any real doubt arises, necessarily the reasonable benefit of doubt would be extended to the accused.

2) For Beneficial Statute such as Statutes related to Industry/workmen, it is always important to have beneficial liberal interpretation[20]. Presently, in the period of social welfare legislation, beneficial interpretation has become important tool of interpretation of statute.
In the case of Secretary, H.S.E.B v. Suresh & Ors Etc.[21] it has been held by the SC that the Contract Labour Regulation Act being a beneficial piece of legislation as engrafted in the statute book, ought to receive the widest possible interpretation in regard to the words used and unless words are taken to their maximum amplitude, it would be a violent injustice to the framers of the law.

3)  For Constitution, the basic spirit in form of social justice, equity fraternity etc. should run throughout the interpretation[22] and the interpretation of the Constitutional provisions should be harmonious and liberal;
In the Case of Menaka Gandhi v. Union of India[23], the Supreme Court widened the protection of life and liberty contemplated by Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court ruled that the mere existence of an enabling law was not enough to restrain personal liberty. Such a law must also be just, fair and reasonable. This wider interpretation ensured inclusion of many rights under Article 21.

4) For Taxing Statute, Statutes imposing taxes or monetary burdens are to strictly construe. The logic behind this principle is that imposition of taxes is also a kind of imposition of penalty which can only be imposed if the language of the statute clearly says so; [24] in many instances, liberal or beneficial interpretation has an important role to play in taxing statute’s interpretation.

In the case of, Calcutta Jute Manufacturing Co. v Commercial Tax officer[25] the Supreme Court held that in case of interpreting a taxing statute, one has to look into what is clearly stated. There is no room of searching the intentions, presumptions.

Apart from above brief submissions on interpretation of different statutes, many types of Internal and External aids are used for the purpose of interpretation of statute. The term internal aid is defined as interpretation of statute with those means which are found within the text of the statutes.[26] For example:Preambles, Definitional sections and clauses, Provisos, Explanations etc.

[17](2006)12 SCC 583
[18]M. Narayanan Nambiar v. State of Kerala, 1963 SCR Supl. (2) 724
[19]1996 (6) SCC 409.
[20]Bajaj Tempo Ltd. v. CIT, 196 ITR 188 (SC)
[21]1999 3 SCC 601
[22]Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461
[23]AIR 1978 SC 597
[24]CIT v. T.V. Sundaram Iyyengar (1975) 101 ITR 764 (SC)
[25]AIR 1997 SC 2920
 [26]Law Commission , A continuum on the General Clauses Act, 1897 with special reference to the admissibility and codification of external aids to interpretation of  statutes {Law Comm. No. 6(3)(79)/2002-LC(LS), 2002}para 8.

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