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• 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.

It is the process of ascertaining the true meaning of the words used in a statute.
The Court is not expected to interpret arbitrarily and therefore there have
been certain principles which have evolved out of the continuous exercise by the
Courts. These principles are sometimes called ‘rules of interpretation’.
 Meaning and Object of Interpretation

 The object of interpretation of statutes is to determine the intention of the

legislature conveyed expressly or impliedly in the language used.
 According to Salmond interpretation or construction is the process by which the
courts seek to ascertain the meaning of the legislature through the medium of
authoritative forms in which it is expressed.
 As explained by Cooley: “Interpretation differs from construction in the
sense that the former is the art of finding out the true sense of any form of
words; i.e. the sense that their author intended to convey. Construction on the
other hand, is the drawing of conclusions, respecting the subjects that lie beyond
the direct expression of the text. This distinction has been widely criticized.
 Nature and Scope of Interpretation

 Necessity of interpretation would arise only where the language of a statutory

provision is ambiguous, not clear or where two views are possible or where
the provision gives a different meaning defeating the object of the statute.
 In R.S. Nayak v A.R. Antulay, it was held that
 “… If the words of the Statute are clear and unambiguous, it is the plainest duty
of the Court to give effect to the natural meaning of the words used in the

 In Grasim Industries Ltd. v Collector of Customs, Bombay same principle

was observed that “Where the words are clear and there is no obscurity, and
there is no ambiguity and the intention of the legislature is clearly
conveyed, there is no scope for court to take upon itself the task of amending or
altering the statutory provisions.”
 According to Blackstone the fairest and rational method for interpreting a
statute is by exploring the intention of the Legislature through the most natural
and probable signs which are ‘either the words, the context, the subject-
matter or the spirit and reason of the law’.
 Reasons for Interpretation of Statutes
 Legislative Language may be complicated for a layman, and hence may require
interpretation; and
 Legislative Intent connotes the concept of ‘purpose’ and ‘object’ or the ‘reason’
or ‘spirit’ pervading through the statute.

While interpreting Statutes following essentials are required:

 Intention of the legislature.
 Statute must be read as a whole in its Context.
 Statute should be Construed so as to make it Effective and Workable – if
statutory provision is ambiguous and capable of various constructions, then that
construction must be adopted which will give meaning and effect to the other
provisions of the enactment rather than that which will give none.
 If meaning is plain, effect must be given to it irrespective of consequences.

A. Classification with reference to basis of Duration
 (i) Perpetual statutes - It is perpetual when no time is fixed for its duration and
such a statute remains in force until its repeal which may be express or implied.
 Temporary statutes - A statute is temporary when its duration is only for a
specified time and it expires on the expiry of the specified time unless it is
repealed earlier.
 B. Classification with reference to Nature of Operation
 (i) Prospective statutes – A statute which operates upon acts and transactions
which have not occurred when the statutes takes effect, that is which regulates
the future is a Prospective statute.
 (ii) Retrospective statutes – Every statute takes away or impairs vested rights
acquired under the existing laws or creates a new obligation into a new duty or
attaches a new disability in respect of transactions or considerations already
passed are deemed retrospective or retroactive statute.
 (iii) Directory statutes – A directory statute is generally affirmative in its terms,
recommends a certain act or omissions, but imposes no penalty on non-
observance of its provisions.
 (iv) Mandatory statutes – A Mandatory statute is one which compels
performance of certain acts and directs that a certain thing must be done in a
certain manner or form. A type of Mandatory Statute is the Imperative Statute.
 C. Classification with reference to Objective
 Enabling statutes – These statutes are which enlarges the common law where it
is too strict or narrow. It is a statute which makes it lawful to do something
which would not otherwise be lawful.
 Disabling statutes – These statutes restrict or cut down rights existing at
common law.
 Prohibitory statute – This type of statute which forbids the doing of certain
 Codifying Statute – It presents and orderly and authoritative statement of the
leading rules of law on a given subject, whether those rules are to be found in
statute law or common law.
 Consolidating statute – The purpose of consolidating statute is to present the
whole body of statutory law on a subject in complete form repeating the former
 Curative or validating Statute - It is passed to cure defects in the prior law and
too validate legal proceedings, instruments or acts of public and private
administrative powers which in the absence of such statute would be void.
 Repealing Statute – A statute which revokes or terminates another statute is a
repealing statute.
 Amending Statute – It is a Statute which makes and addition to or operates to
change the original law so as to effectively carry out the purpose for which the
original law was passed
 Intention of the Legislature (SENTENTIA LEGIS)
 The object of interpreting a statute is to ascertain the intention of the Legislature
enacting it”, South Asia Industries (Pvt.) Ltd. S. Sarup Singh.
 The first and primary rule of construction is that the intention of the Legislature
must be found in the words used by the Legislature itself. The question is not
what may be supposed to have been intended but what has been said. The key to
the opening of every law is the reason and spirit of the law. Each word, phrase
or sentence, is to be construed in the light of the general purpose of the Act
itself. Interpretation must depend on the text and the context, as they are the
bases of interpretation.
 If the text is the texture, context gives the colour. Neither can be ignored. A
particular clause or expression is construed by construing the whole instrument
and any dominant purposes that it may express.



 Statute to be construed to make it effective and workable

 Language Of The Statute Should Be Read As It Is
 Statute Must Be Construed As Whole

Language Of The Statute Should Be Read As It Is

 The intention of the Legislature is primarily to be gathered from the language

used. The words of a statute never should, in interpretation, be added to or
subtracted from without almost a necessity.
I. Avoiding addition or substitution of words
 It is wrong and dangerous to proceed by substituting some other words for
words in a statute. The rules of interpretation do not permit addition or deletion,
unless the section itself stands meaningless or of doubtful meaning.

II Casus Omissus
 It is an application of the same principle that a matter which should have been,
but has not been provided in a statute cannot be supplied by courts. (Hansraj
Gupta v. Dehra Dun Mussoorie Electric Tramway)
 To do so, will constitute legislation, and not construction. The duty of the
Court is to interpret the words that the legislature has used. Those words
may be ambiguous, but, even if they are, the power and duty of the Court to
travel outside them on a voyage of discovery are strictly limited.

 State of Jharkhand v Govind Singh

 Section 52(3) and 68 of Forest Act, 1927 was amended in Bihar that provided
for confiscation of vehicle used in a forest as an offence and did not provide for
the release of the vehicle on payment of fine. The vehicle could only be released
on payment of full value of the vehicle and therefore it was not possible to levy
a fin in lieu of confiscation and release of vehicle.

III Avoiding rejection of words

 As on the one hand, it is not permissible to add words or to fill in a gap or
lacuna, on the other hand, effort should be made to give meaning to each and
every word used by the legislature.
 In the interpretation of statutes, the courts always presume that the legislature
inserted every part thereof for a purpose and the legislative intention is that
every part of the statute should have effect. Therefore the words should not
be wasted, except for compelling reasons.

IV. Departure from the rule

 The court, in the process of discharging its interpretative function, may correct
the obvious drafting errors, after having considered the intended purpose.
 A departure from the rule of literal construction may be legitimate so as to avoid
any part of the statute becoming meaningless. It may therefore, be permissible to
supply words, which appear to have been accidentally omitted or adopt a
construction, which deprives certain existing words of all meaning.

 Statute Must Be Construed As Whole

 This principle states that statute should be interpreted ex visceribus actus, that is
within the four corners of the act. Every clause needs to be construed with
reference to the context and other clauses of the Act, to make a consistent
enactment of the whole statute or series of statutes relating to the subject-matter.
 The conclusion that the language is plain or ambiguous can only be truly
arrived at by studying the statute as a whole. How far and to what extent each
component influences the meaning of the other , would be different in each
given case.
 Each word, must however, be allowed to play its role, however significant or
insignificant it may be. in achieving the legislative intent. Each section must be
construed as a whole, whether or not one of the parts is a saving clause or a
proviso. They may be interdependent, each portion throwing light, if need be on
the rest.

Rule 7 of delhi judicial service stated recruitment by promotion or by direct
recruitment. The proviso stated not more than one third members would be
appointed by direct recruitment. Rule 8 laid down the seniority of diret
recruitment but subject to provision of rule 7. The court held that while
interpreting the statute as whole rule 8 would have to consider the proviso of
rule 7


 The word sale in the madras sale tax while interpretation as a whole relates to
contract of sale and not contract for sale. Mere transaction taking lace in Madras
, while actual sales taking place somewhere else does not attract the sale tax of


 The court held that even though medical colleges have been given permission to
open colleges, yet they till require permission from medical council in case they
want to increase the seats. Unlimited powers have not been given to medical
colleges as their statute has to be read with the provisions of medical council.


Section 13 of Punjab Rent Act, 1949 enabled the landlord to obtain possession of land
 If he requires for his own use
 He is not occupying in urban area for the purpose of his business
 He has not vacated his rented land
 ……….
The court held that for his own use has to be construed with all the latter clauses and
not to be construed alone.
 Statute to be construed to make it effective and workable
 Where alternative construction is possible, the court must give effect to that
which will be responsible for smooth working of system for which statute was
enacted, rather than to put hindrances on its way. This is known as
Construction ut res magis valeat quam pereat.
 The interpretation should be construed to make the statute workable, which
secures the object, unless crucial omissions or clear direction makes that end
 The meaning of the statute must be considered rather then the rendering the
statute a nullity.

 Plain words require no construction. This starts with the premise that the words
are plain and that the conclusion can be arrived at after construing the words.
 Statutory enactment must ordinarily be construed according to its plain meaning
and no words shall be added, altered or modified unless it is plainly necessary to
do so to prevent a provision from being unintelligible, absurd, unreasonable,
unworkable or totally irreconcilable with the test of the statute.” [Bhavnagar
University v. Palitana Sugar Mill (P.) Ltd., (2003) 2 SCC 111 : AIR 2003]

The respondent made an application to civil court beyond six months of from the
date of award regarding compensation but within six months from the
knowledge of the award. The court while interpreting constructively that it
would be just, fair to compute the period of limitation from date of knowledge
of the award.


 The question was whether a thermal plant sold in perfect condition would be an
old machinery within UP Sales Tax. The court held that while constructively
giving the meaning to the word ‘old’ visa vi enactment it means discarded,
unserviceable and obsolete. Thus thermal plant would not be regarded as old
Indian medical council Act provided that the President, Vice President and members
of central council shall continue till the successor is duly nominated or elected is
not violative of Article 14. This provision is not arbitrary as it would take care
of certain emergency situation, and old members can take a decision till the new
members are elected


 The Literal Rule, also known as the Plain-Meaning rule, is a type of statutory
 The literal rule of statutory interpretation should be the first rule applied by
 Under the literal rule, the words of the statute are given their natural or
ordinary meaning and applied without the judge seeking to put a gloss on
the words or seek to make sense of the statute.

 The plain meaning rule attempts to guide courts faced with litigation in the
absence of a contrary definition within the statute, words must be given their
plain, ordinary and literal meaning.
 The courts are enjoined to take the words as used by the legislature and too give
them the meaning which naturally implies as held in Molar Mal (deceased) v.
Kay Iron Works (Pvt.) Ltd.
 If the language used by the legislature is clear and unambiguous, a court of law
at the present day has only to expound the words in their natural and ordinary
sense; ‘Verbis plane expressis amnino standum est’.

 Whitely v Chappel (1868) LR 4 QB 147

A statute made it an offence 'to impersonate any person entitled to vote.' The
defendant used the vote of a dead man. The statute relating to voting rights
required a person to be living in order to be entitled to vote.


The literal rule was applied and the defendant was thus acquitted.

 Fisher v Bell [1961] 1 QB 394

The defendant had a flick knife displayed in his shop window with a price tag on
it. Statute made it a criminal offence to 'offer' such flick knives for sale. His
conviction was quashed as goods on display in shops are not 'offers' in the
technical sense but an invitation to treat. The court applied the literal rule of
statutory interpretation.
 Motipur Zanzindary Company Private Limited v. state of Bihar
 The question was whether. sugarcane fell within the term green vegetables in.
Entry 6 of the Schedule and as such no sales tax could be levied under the
Bihar Sales Tax Act, 1947 on its sale.
 The Supreme Court held that while dealing with a taxing statute the natural and
ordinary meaning Of a word should be the 'correct meaning.
 In the present instance the word vegetables should be interpreted in its natural
and popular-sense and that dictionary meaning is not of such help here.
Vegetables as the normal people mean by it are those which can-be grown in a
kitchen garden to be used for the table, that is to say, to be eaten during lunch or
dinner. Sugarcane definitely does not fall under this category.

 Partridge v Crittenden (1968) 2 All ER 421

The defendant placed an advert in a classified section of a magazine offering

some bramble finches for sale. S.6 of the Protection of Birds Act 1954 made it
an offence to offer such birds for sale. He was charged and convicted of the
offence and appealed against his conviction. The court held that the
defendant's conviction was quashed. The advert was an invitation to treat
not an offer. The literal rule of statutory interpretation was applied.
 R v Harris (1836) 7 C & P 446

Harris bits of the end of a woman’s nose, the prosecution alleged the bite was
included in ‘stab, cut or wound’.

 The court held that under the literal rule the act of biting did not come within the
meaning of stab cut or wound as these words implied an instrument had to be
used. Therefore the defendant's conviction was quashed.
 R v Maginnis [1987] AC 303 House of Lords

The defendant was charged with possession of a controlled drug with intent
to supply it to another under s.5(3) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. A
package containing £500 worth of cannabis was found in his car. The defendant
stated the cannabis belonged to a friend and that the friend was picking it up
later. The trial judge convicted him and ruled that his action in handing the
drugs back to the friend was an action of supply.

 On Appeal, his conviction was reinstated because "The word "supply," in its
ordinary natural meaning, connotes the mere transfer of physical control of
some chattel or object from one person to another.
 This was dissented by a judge stating that either the delivery of goods by a
depositor to a depositee, or the redelivery of goods by a depositee to a depositor,
can sensibly be described as an act of supplying goods to another. In ordinary
language the cloakroom attendant, the left luggage officer, the warehouseman
and the shoe mender do not 'supply' to their customers the articles which those
customers have left with them."
 London and North Eastern Railway v Berriman [1946] AC 278

A railway worker was killed whilst oiling the track. No look out man had been
provided. A statute provided compensation payable on death for those 'relaying
or repairing' the track.
 Under the literal rule oiling did not come into either of these categories.
 This result although very harsh could not to be said to be absurd so the golden
rule could not be applied. There was no ambiguity in the words therefore the
mischief rule could not be applied. Unfortunately the widow was entitled to

Powell v Kempton Park Racecourse (1899) AC 143

 Where it is an offence to use a house, office, room or ‘other place for
betting’. The defendant argued that he operates an outside place
 Held:

The court held that the other items mentioned in the statute related to places
indoors whereas plea of enclosure was outside. There was thus no offence
Harbhajan Singh v. Press Council of India
 Section 6 , in so far as relevant for our purpose, provides that the Chairman and
other members of the council shall hold office for a period of three years. Sub-
section 7 of section 6 of the Press Council Act, 1978 provides: ‘A retiring
member shall be eligible for renomination for not more than one term.’
Question was whether a person who had already been a member of the Council
for two terms earlier is eligible for being nominated

 The Supreme Court applied the literal and grammatical meaning of these words
and held that the provision applied to a member “just retiring” and not to a
retired member and that a retired member who had held office for two terms
sometime in the past is not debarred from being nominated again.

Vemareddy Kumaraswamy Reddy and Anr. Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh

 The appellants were holding land in excess of the limit prescribed under the
Andhra Pradesh Land Reforms (Ceiling on Agricultural) Act, 1973, (“Act“).
The surplus land was surrendered by them which had fruit bearing cashew nut
tree plantation. It is to be noted that the trees were 12 years old and stood on the
surrendered land. The dispute relates to the amount payable in respect of fruit
bearing trees standing on the land which were surrendered by the appellant.
According to the authorities the payment was to be made for one year only and
not for thirty years (life of cashew tree) as was claimed by the appellant.

 According to the notification held that the amounts are to be calculated from 5th
to 30th year as up to five (5) years cashew trees are held to be not fruit bearing
trees. That being so, the Apex Court held that stand of the State Government (as
accepted by the High Court) that the signora rate is for one year and accordingly
fixing it for the 12 year is clearly unsustainable.

 S.A.Venkataraman v. The State

 Previous sanction necessary for prosecutions.-
 (1) No Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Section 161
or Section 164 or Section 165 of the Indian Penal Code or under sub -section (2)
or sub-section (3A) of Section 5 of this Act, alleged to have been committed by
a public servant, except with the previous sanction,-
 (a) in the case of a person who is employed in connection with the affairs of the
Union and is not removable from his office gave by or with the sanction of the
Central Government, of the Central Government;
 (b) in the case of a person who is employed in connection with the affairs of a
State and is not removable from his office save by or with the sanction of the
State Government, of the State Government;
 (c) in the case of any other person, of the authority competent to remove him
from his office.
 ………………………………..

 The court said that this case dealt with Section 6 of the Prevention of Corruption
Act. It was to do with taking a sanction from an appropriate authority .It
considers only the present working employees as employees, those who have
retired are not considered as employees. The court said, “In construing the
provisions of a statute it is essential for a court, in the first instance, to give
effect to the natural meaning of the words used therein, if those words are clear
 Rananjaya Singh v. Baijnatli Singh, 14 AIR 1954 SC 749
 The Election Tribunal set aside the election of the appellant under section 123(7)
of Representation of the People Act, 1951 on the grounds that. the appellant had
employed more persons than prescribed for electioning purpose and that the
salary of this persons exceeded the maximum election expenditure permissible
under the law.
 The contention of the appellant was that all those persons who had campaigned
for him in the election were in the· employment of his father and were thereby
receiving salaries from his father by virtue-of their employment.
 As far as he was concerned, he had not made payments to; them exceeding the
permissible limit.

 The Supreme Court, following the grammatical interpretation said that the
meaning of section 123 (7) of the Act of 1951 was quite clear and, therefore, as
far as these campaigners were concerned they were merely volunteers
campaigning· for the appellant
 Ranjit Udeshi v. State 'Of Maharashtra
 the appellant was convicted under Section 292, Indian Penal Code by the High
Court for selling an obscene book titled Lady Chatterley's Lover the sale of
which was banned by the Government of India. the appellant contended before
the Supreme Court that mens rea of the accused had always to :be proved to
maintain conviction under criminal. law.
 Since the prosecution had failed to prove mens rea, that is to say, that the
appellant sold ·or kept for selling the obscene book with the knowledge that
the book was obscene, the conviction was unjustified.
 He further argued :that there are such a large number 0f books these days in
bookstalls and their contents so different from each other that a book seller
cannot possibly know and is not expected to know the contents of each book and
cannot, therefore, be convicted. in the absence ,of a guilty mind.
 The Supreme Court held that knowledge of obscenity was not an essential
element of the offence under Section 292, Indian Penal Code. The section is
plain and its meaning unambiguous. The Court must give natural meaning to the
words used in the section and on this count the contention of the appellant held
no water


 A. Noscitur a Sociis
 Noscitur a Sociis literally means “It is known from its associates”.
 Under the doctrine of "noscitur a sociis" the questionable meaning of a word or
doubtful words can be derived from its association with other words within the
context of the phrase.
 This means that words in a list within a statute have meanings that are related to
each other.
 In Foster v Diphwys Casson((1887) 18 QBD 428), the case involved a statute
which stated that explosives taken into a mine must be in a "case or canister".
Here the defendant used a cloth bag. The courts had to consider whether a cloth
bag was within the definition. Under noscitur a sociis, it was held that the bag
could not have been within the statutory definition, because parliament's
intention in using ‘case or container’ was referring to something of the same
strength as a canister.

 Under noscitur a sociis, it was held that the bag could not have been within the
statutory definition, because parliament's intention in using ‘case or container’
was referring to something of the same strength as a canister.
Inland Revenue v Frere [1964]
 The respondent sought to deduct the interest paid on a short term loan from his
income for the purposes of assessing his liability to pay tax. The Income Tax Act
of 1952 allowed "the amount of interest, annuities or other annual interest" to be
deducted from the income.

It was held that Under the noscitur a sociis rule, the mention of amount of interest
related only to annual interest as the other items related to annual payments. The
respondent's interest payment was not an annual interest payment and therefore
he could not deduct it from his income and he was required to pay tax on it.
In Commrs. v. Savoy Hotel, (1966) 2 All ER 299.
While dealing with the Purchase Tax Act, which used the expression ‘manufactured
beverages including fruit-juices and bottled waters and syrups etc.’, The
question was whether orange juice unsweetened and freshly prepared comes
within the description or not.

 It was held that the description ‘fruit juices, as occurring therein should be
construed in the context of the preceding words and the orange juice
unsweetened and freshly prepared was not within the description
 In Hiradevi v. District Board, Shahjahanpur,
Section 71 of the U. P. Districts Boards Act, 1922, provided that a Board may dismiss
it secretary by special resolution which in certain cases required sanction of
Local Government, and Section 90 conferred a power to suspend the secretary
‘pending enquiry into his conduct or pending orders of any authority whose
action is necessary for his dismissal’. By U.P. Act 1 of 1933, Section 71 was
amended and the amended section provided that a resolution of dismissal was
not to take effect till the expiry of the period of appeal or till the decision of
appeal if it was so presented. No corresponding amendment was, however made
in Section 90 and it was held by the Supreme Court that a suspension resolved
under Section 90 to be operative till appeal against the dismissal was decided,
was ultra- vires the powers of the Board
 When particular words pertaining to a class, category are followed by
general words, the general words are construed as limited to the things of the
same kind as those specified. This rule which is known as the rule of ejusdem
 Difference between Noscitur A Sociis and Ejusdem Generis Rule

In Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board v. Harishanker, the Supreme Court has laid
down conditions that needs to be fulfilled for this rule of construction is used.
They are:
 The statute contains an enumeration of specific words.
 The subjects of enumeration constitute a class or category.
 The general terms follow the enumeration.
 There is no indication of a different legislative intent.

 In State of Bombay v. Ali Gulshan, the interpretation of Section 6 (4) (a) of the
Bombay Land Requisition Act, 1948 which said: 'State Government may
requisition for the purpose of State or any other public purpose , was
involved. It was contended that under the provision the appellant was entitled to
requisition premises for housing a member of the foreign consulate.

 The High Court held that the expression any other public purpose should be read
Ejusdem Generis with purpose of state, and providing accommodation to a
member of the foreign consulate being a purpose of the Union and not of the
State, the State Government had no authority to requisition.

 In Evans v. Cross the words 'other devices' had to be interpreted in Section 48

(9) of the Road Traffic Act, 1930 which defined a 'traffic sign' to include 'all
signals, warning sign posts, direction posts, signs, or other devices'. Applying
the rule of Ejusdem Generis the Court decide whether a painted white line on a
road could be called a traffic sign or not.

 Applying the rule of Ejusdem Generis the Court held that a painted white line on
a road could not be called a traffic sign because devices are things, which a
painted line on road I
 In M/s Siddeshwari Cotton Mills Private Limited v. Union of India, the
Supreme Court observed that the expressions 'bleaching, mercerizing, dyeing,
printing, water-proofing, rubberising, shrink-proofing, organdie
processing, which precede the expression 'or any other process' in Section 2
(f) (v) of the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944 contemplate processes which
import a change of a lasting character to the fabric by either the addition of some
chemical into the fabric or otherwise. 'Any other process' in the section must
share one or the other of these incidents. s not.
 The express mention of one person or thing is the exclusion of another. Where
the statutory language is plain and the meaning clear, there is no scope for
applying the rule.
 This maxim is also not used to extend the operation of a statute beyond the
operation of a statute beyond the provision that it actually makes, e.g. a law
enacted by Parliament for A, what is already a law for A and others, the new law
will not change the law for others.

 Section 5 of the Transfer of Property Act,1882 defines “transfer of property”,

which means, “an act by which living persons conveys property, in present or
future, to one or more other living persons or to himself in and one or more
other living persons and to “transfer property” or to himself is to perform such
act.”The next paragraph provides that in this section “living person” includes a
company or association or body of individuals whether incorporated or not .This
clearly provides that “living person” not only means an individual or human
being but can also refers to a company or association or body of individuals
whether incorporated or not



 The golden rule of statutory interpretation may be applied where an application
of the literal rule would lead to an absurdity. The courts may then apply a
secondary meaning.
 The Golden rule is a form of statutory interpretation that allows a judge to
depart from a word’s normal meaning in order to avoid an absurd result.
 It is a compromise between the literal rule and the mischief rule. Like the plain
meaning rule, it gives the words of a statute their plain, ordinary meaning.
However, when this may lead to an irrational result that is unlikely to be the
legislature’s intention, the judge can depart from this meaning.

 This rule may be used in two ways. It is applied most frequently in a

narrow sense where there is some ambiguity or absurdity in the words
 For example, imagine there may be a sign saying “Do not use lifts in case of
fire.” Under the literal interpretation of this sign, people must never use the lifts,
in case there is a fire. However, this would be an absurd result, as the intention
of the person who made the sign is obviously to prevent people from using the
lifts only if there is currently a fire nearby.
 The second use of the golden rule is in a wider sense, to avoid a result that is
obnoxious to principles of public policy, even where words have only one
meaning. Example: The facts of a case are; a son murdered his mother and
committed suicide. The courts were required to rule on who then inherited the
estate, the mother’s family, or the son’s descendants. There was never a question
of the son profiting from his crime, but as the outcome would have been binding
on lower courts in the future, the court found in favour of the mother’s family.

 R v Allen (1872) LR 1 CCR 367

 The defendant was charged with the offence of bigamy under s.57 of the
Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The statute states 'whosoever being
married shall marry any other person during the lifetime of the former
husband or wife is guilty of an offence'. Under a literal interpretation of this
section the offence would be impossible to commit since civil law will not
recognise a second marriage any attempt to marry in such circumstances would
not be recognised as a valid marriage.


The court applied the golden rule and held that the word 'marry' should be
interpreted as 'to go through a marriage ceremony'. The defendant's conviction
was upheld.
 Re Sigsworth [1935] 1 Ch 98
 A son murdered his mother. She had not made a will. Under the statute setting
the law on intestacy he was her sole issue and stood to inherit her entire estate.
The court applied the Golden rule holding that an application of the literal rule
would lead to a repugnant result. He was thus entitled to nothing.

 An example of the same is S. 125 of the CrPC which deals with maintenance
given to women. The court while interpreting the term ‘wife’ included those
women who have entered into bigamy, talakshuda women and divorced
women. The court has stated that even though a woman may have relinquished
her rights on divorce, she may claim maintenance u/s 125 as she will she be
regarded as a ‘wife’ 10 years after such divorce.
 Further, in the case of Chairman, Railway Board & Ors. Vs. Mrs.
Chandrima Das & Ors the courts interpreted that Article 21 shall be available
to non-citizens as well as citizens.
 Lee v Knapp
 The defendant committed a breach of section 77 (1) of the Road Traffic Act,
1960, which provides, so far as material, that if in any case owing to the
presence of a motor vehicle on a road an accident occurs whereby damage is
caused to a vehicle other than that motor vehicle, the driver of the motor
vehicle shall stop and then move away. The defendant commiteed an
accident, stopped his car and moved away. The golden rule of interpretation
is in case of accident, the person has to stop for reasonable period.
 Applying the golden rule the court held that the driver had not fulfilled the
requirement of the section, as he had not stopped for a reasonable period so as to
enable interested persons to make necessary inquires from him about the
accident at the spot of accident
 Uttar Pradesh Bhoodan Yagna Samiti v. Brij Kishore
 The Supreme Court held that the expression “landless person” used in section 14
of U.P. Bhoodan Yagna Act, 1953 which made provision for grant of land to
landless persons, was limited to “landless laborers”. A landless labour is he
who is engaged in agriculture but having no agricultural land. The Court further
said that “any landless person” did not include a landless businessman residing
in a city. The object of the Act was to implement the Bhoodan movement, which
aimed at distribution of land to landless labourers who were verged in
agriculture. A businessman, though landless cannot claim the benefit of the Act
 Annapurna Biscuit Manufacturing Co. v. Commissioner of Sales Tax, U P.
 Sales Tax was fixed at two per cent, of the turnover in the case of “cooked
food” under section 3A of the U.P. Sales Tax Act, 1948. The appellant firm
engaged in the business of biscuit manufacture and sale. Whether biscuits
though intended for human consumption, can be construed as “cooked
food” and liable to be taxed as per the notification issued under the said

 Held that if an expression is capable of a wider meaning, the question whether

the wider or narrower meaning should be accepted depends on the context of the
statute. Here biscuit was not covered within the words ‘cooked food’. However,
where the precise words used are plain and unambiguous the court is bound to
construe them in their ordinary sense and not to limit plain words in an Act of
Parliament by consideration of policy which has to decided not by court but by
Parliament itself.
 Ramji Missar v. State of Bihar[
 Construing section 6 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, the Supreme
Court laid down that the crucial date on which the age of the offender had to
be determined is not the date of offence, but the date on which the sentence
is pronounced by the trial court. An accused who on the date of offence was
below 21 years of age but on the date on which the judgment pronounced, if he
was above 21 years, he is not entitled to the benefit of the statute.
 This conclusion reached having regard to the object of the Act. The object of the
Statute is to prevent the turning of the youthful offenders into criminals by their
association with the hardened criminals of mature age within the walls of the
prison. An accused below 21 years is entitled to the benefit of the Act by
sending him under the supervision of the probation officer instead of jail.
 It suffers from the same difficulties as the literal approach vis lack of wider
contextual understandings of “meanings.”
 The idea of “absurdity” covers only a very few cases. Most cases involve
situations where difficult choices have to be made between several fairly
plausible arguments, not situations where the words lead to obvious absurdities.
 The use of the “absurdity” safety valve can be very erratic

 According to this rule, a statute should be read as a whole and one provision of
the Act should be construed with reference to other provisions in the same Act
so as to make a consistent enactment of the whole statute.
 The Courts should avoid “a head on clash”, between the different parts of an
enactment and conflict between the various provisions should be sought to be
harmonized. The normal presumption should be consistency and it should not be
assumed that what is given with one hand by the legislature is sought to be taken
away by the other. (CIT v Hindustan Bulk Carriers)

 The aim of the courts are:-

i) An interpretation which makes the enactment consistent .
ii) A construction which avoids inconsistency or repugnancy between the various
sections or parts of the statute.
However, in the case in which it shall be impossible to harmonize both the provisions,
the court’s decision shall prevail.

 Venkataramana Devaru v. State of Mysore

 The Supreme Court applied the rule of harmonious construction in resolving a
conflict between Articles 25(2)(b) and 26(b) of the Constitution and it was held
that the right of every religious denomination or any section thereof to manage
its own affairs in matters of religion [Article 26(b)] is subject to a law made by a
State providing for social welfare and reform.
 M.S.M. Sharma v. Krishna Sinha
 The same rule was applied to resolve the conflict between Articles 19(1)(a) and
194(3) of the Constitution and it was held that the right of freedom of speech
guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) is the read as subject to powers, privileges and
immunities of a House of the Legislature which are those of the House of
Commons of the United Kingdom as declared by the latter part of Article
 Sirsilk Ltd. v. Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
 Certain disputes between the employer and the workmen were referred to an
industrial tribunal. After adjudication, the tribunal sent its award to the
government for publication. However, before the award was published, the
parties to the dispute came to a settlement and accordingly, wrote a letter to the
government jointly, intimating the fact that the dispute had been settled; hence
the award shall not be published.
 On the government’s refusal to withhold the publication, the employer
approached the High Court for a writ or direction to the government to withhold
the publication.

 The High Court rejected the writ petition as well as the writ arising therefrom.
The parties then appealed by special leave to the Supreme Court.
 The main contention of the appellants was that Section 17 of the Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 is directory in nature and not mandatory.
 A mandatory statute or statutory provision is one which must be followed
in order that the proceeding to which it relates may be valid.
 A directory statute or provision is one which need not be complied with in
order that the proceeding to which it partakes may be valid.
 It is not always easy to determine whether a particular statute is mandatory or
directory. Ordinarily the words ‘shall’ and ‘must’ are mandatory, and the
word ‘may’ is directory, although they are often used interchangeably in

 Section 17(1) states, ‘Every award shall within a period of thirty days from the
date of its receipt by the appropriate government be published in such manner
as the appropriate government thinks fit”.
 The use of the word ‘shall’, the court observed, is a pointer to Section 17(1)
being mandatory in nature.
 Section 17(2) states, ‘Award published under sub-section (1) shall be final and
shall not be called in question by any court in any manner whatsoever.

 Section 17A, of the Industrial Disputes Act, provides that the award under
Section 17 becomes enforceable after thirty days of publication, though the
government may declare certain contingencies in which it may not be
 Section 18 (1) provides that a settlement arrived at by agreement between
the employer and the workmen otherwise than in the course of conciliation
proceeding shall be binding on the parties to the agreement.
 The court read Section 17 and Section 17A together and declared that the
intention behind Section 17 is that the duty cast on the government to publish
the award is mandatory and not directory. And hence, the contention of the
appellants did not hold good.

 Though the Supreme Court maintained that Section 17 (1) is mandatory, and
ordinarily the government has to publish an award sent to it by the
tribunal, in special circumstances of the case and with a view to avoid a
conflict between a settlement binding under Section 18 (1), it held that the
only solution is to withhold the publication of the award as this would not in any
way affect the mandatory provision of Section 17 of the Industrial Disputes Act,
 Raj Krushna Bose vs Binod Khanungo & others.
 Two provisions of Representation of People Act, 1951, which were in apparent
conflict, were brought forth in this case. Section 33 (2) says that a Government
Servant can nominate or second a candidate in election but Section 123(8) says
that a Government Servant cannot assist any candidate in election except by
casting his vote.

 The Supreme Court observed that both these provisions should be harmoniously
interpreted and held that a Government Servant was entitled to nominate or
second a candidate seeking election in State Legislative assembly. This
harmony can only be achieved if Section 123(8) is interpreted as giving the
govt. servant the right to vote as well as to nominate or second a candidate
and forbidding him to assist the candidate in any other manner.

Commissioner of Sales Tax, MP v Radha Krishna

 Under section 46 (1) c of the Madhya Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1958,
criminal prosecution of the respondent partners was sanctioned in this case by
the Commissioner when even after repeated demands the assesse did not pay the
sales tax. The respondent challenged this provision on the ground that there
were two separate provisions under the Act, namely, section 22 (4 – A) and
section 46 (1) c under which two different procedures were prescribed to realize
the amount due but there was no provision of law which could tell that which
provision should be applied in which case.
 According to the Supreme Court, the provision prescribed u/s 46 (1) c was more
drastic. It was held that by harmonious construction of these two provisions, the
conclusion drawn is that the Commissioner had a judicial discretion to decide as
to which procedure to be followed in which case. Whenever the Commissioner
will fail to act judicially, the court will have the right to intervene. However, in
this case, the Commissioner had correctly decided that the more drastic
procedure under section 46 (1) c deserved to be followed because of the failure
of the assesse firm in paying sales tax despite the repeated demands by the sales
tax officer.
 To understand the meaning of words in a statute, Courts have to understand the
statute's intent.
 The purpose of an Act, i.e. why it was enacted and how it came to be, is not
just a relevant factor in deciding how to give effect to a statute's words, but
is essential to determining its meaning.
 Purposive approach to statutory interpretation involved the consideration of
three factors:
 the language of the provision;
 the context in which the language is used; and
 the purpose of the legislation or statutory scheme in which the language is

 While the "ordinary meaning" of words still plays a fundamental role in the
judicial interpretation of statutes, Legislative intent will inevitably inform the
Courts' method when analyzing the meaning of statutory provisions.
 The purposive approach not just look to see what gap might have existed in
the law previously, but the judges are attempting to identify what they believe
Parliament meant to achieve.
 The courts now adopt a purposive approach which seeks to give effect to the
true purpose of legislation and are prepared to look at much extraneous
material that bears upon the background against which the legislation was
enacted.” (Pepper v Hart)

Literal Rule vs. Purposive Approach

 The literal approach takes each word literally. The purposive approach is very
broad and does not look at the precise meaning of each word.
Golden Rule vs. Purposive Approach
 Golden rules look to the actual wording of the statutes. The mischief and
purposive approach go beyond that.

The advantages of the purposive approach

 Leads to justice in individual cases.
 where there is new technology which was unknown when the law was enacted,
in present times those laws can be modified.
The disadvantages of the purposive approach
 It makes the law less certain.
 It also allows unelected judges to make law as they are deciding what they think
the law should be rather than using the words that Parliament enacted
 Another problem with the purposive approach is that it is difficult to discover
the intention of Parliament.

 A.P. v. L.V.A. Dikshitulu

 The Court observed:

"The primary principle of interpretation is that a Constitutional or statutory

provision should be construed "according to the intent of they that made it".
 Normally, such intent is gathered from the language of the provision. If the
language employed by the legislation is precise and plain and thus by itself
proclaims the legislative intent in unequivocal terms, the same must be given
effect to, regardless of the consequences that may follow.
 But if the words used in the provision can reasonably bear meanings more than
one, the rule of strict grammatical construction ceases to be a sure guide to reach
at the real legislative intent.
 In such a case, in order to ascertain the true meaning of the terms and phrases
employed, it is legitimate for the Court to go for purposive interpretation.

 Ayr Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. v. Wright, 2016 ONCA 789

 Ayr Mutual involved a claim by an insured, Mr. Wright, for statutory accident
benefits ("SABS") following an accident in his garage.
 Mr. Wright's insurer denied him SABS, claiming that his injuries were not the
result of an "accident" as defined in the Ontario Statutory Accident Benefits
Schedule, O. Reg. 34/10 (the "Schedule").
 Under section 279 of the Insurance Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.I.8 (the "Insurance
Act"), disputes concerning an insured's right to SABS are to be submitted to
mediation before any litigation can be started. Mr. Wright applied for mediation
with his insurer.

 Rather than participate in the mediation process set out in the Insurance Act, the
insurer started an application in the Ontario Superior Court for a preliminary
determination of issues.
 In effect, the insurer's argument was: (i) the dispute resolution process under
section 279 of the Insurance Act could only be triggered "in respect of any
insured person's entitlement to statutory accident benefits"; (ii) to qualify as
an "insured person" under the Schedule, the claimant must have been involved
in an accident; and (iii) the preliminary issue of whether a claimant was
involved in an "accident" and therefore qualified as an "insured person"
under the Schedule had to be determined by the Court first, before the
alternative mediation scheme under section 279 of the Insurance Act applied.

 The Superior Court rejected the insurer's argument. The Court, according to
purposive construction, held that the mediation process under the Insurance
Act covered all disputes relating to SABS, including the preliminary question of
whether the claimant was involved in an accident and qualified as an insured
person under the Schedule
 Pickstone v Freemans plc
 Here, women warehouse operatives were paid the same as male warehouse
operatives. However, Miss Pickstone claimed that the work of the warehouse
operatives was of equal value to that done by male warehouse checkers who
were paid £1.22 per week more than they were. The employers argued that a
woman warehouse operative was employed on like work to the male warehouse
operatives, so she could not bring a claim under section 1(2) (c) of the 1970
statute for work of equal value. This was a literal interpretation of the 1970
 The House of Lords decided that the literal approach would have left the United
Kingdom in breach of its treaty obligations to give effect to an EU directive. It
therefore used the purposive approach and stated that Miss Pickstone was
entitled to claim on the basis of work of equal value even though there was a
male employee doing the same work as her.
 Smith v. Hughes
 The question arose whether a women soliciting men from inside a building,
committed an offence.
 Lord Parker C.J found the text unclear so he looked at the purpose of the
legislation and said “everybody knows that this was an Act intended to clean up
the street, to enable people to walk along streets without being molested or
solicited by common prostitutes. Viewed in that way it can matter little whether
the prostitute is soliciting while in the street or is standing in a doorway or on a
balcony, or at a window or whether the window is shut or open.
 If the literal meaning of the act was followed the outcome would have been
different and the women would not have been guilty, so this proves that the
purposive approach is much more superior and flexible than the literal rule.

In Molar Mal v. Kay Iron Works (P) Ltd. Court while reiterating that courts
will have to follow the rule of literal construction, held that there is an exception
to that rule. This Court observed:

“That exception comes into play when application of literal construction of the
words in the statute leads to absurdity, inconsistency or when it is shown
that the legal context in which the words are used or by reading the statute as a
whole, it requires a different meaning.

 Justice G.P. Singh extracts four conditions that should be present to justify
departure from the plain words of the Statute, in his treatise "Principles of
Statutory Interpretation" from the decision of the House of Lords in Stock v.
Frank Jones (Tipton) Ltd.:

 A court would only be justified in departing from the plain words of the statute
when it is satisfied that
 (1) there is clear and gross balance of anomaly;
 (2) Parliament could not have envisaged such anomaly;
 (3) the anomaly can be obviated without detriment to such a legislative
objective; and
 (4) the language of the statute is susceptible of the modification required to
obviate the anomaly.”
 The mischief rule is one of the most firmly established rule for construing an
obscure enactment.
 It is another rule of statutory interpretation traditionally applied by English
 The rule was first laid out in a 16th-century ruling of the Barons of the
Exchequer Court in Heydon’s case which have been continually cited with
approval and acted upon.
 The main aim of the rule is to determine the “mischief and defect” that the
statute in question has set out to remedy, and what ruling would effectively
implement this remedy.
 In applying the Mischief Rule, the court is essentially asking what part of the
law, did the law not cover, but was meant to be rectified by the parliament
in passing the bill.

 Mischief Rule laid by the Barons of the Exchequer in the Heydon's case
(Heydon 's case (1584) 3 Co R) as follows, namely- "That for the sure and true
interpretation of all statutes in general four things are to be discerned and
 (1) What was the common law before the making of the Act?
 (2) What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not
 (3) What remedy the Parliament have resolved and appointed to cure it
 (4) The true reason of the remedy and the judges to always to make such
construction as shall suppress the mischief and advance the remedy
 Pyarali K. Tejani vs Mahadeo Ramchandra Dange
 The appellant/petitioner, a dealer in scented supari, was charged with the offence
of having sold and retained for selling scented supari with saccharin and
cyclamate, prohibited artificial sweeteners, in contravention of S. 7(i)(ii) and
rule 47 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and thereby having
committed an offence punishable under section 16(1)(a)(i) of the Act.
 Court held that Supari is food within the meaning of S. 2(v) of the Act. The Act
defines 'food' very widely as covering any article used as food and every
component which enters into it and even flavoring matter and condiments. In
food offenses mischeif rule to be applied. Appellant will be liable

 In the Bengal Immunity case, the mischief rule was applied to the construction
of Article 286 of the Constitution of India, observing that it was to cure the
mischief of multiple taxation and to preserve the free flow of the inter-State
trade or commerce in the Union of India regarded as one economic unit without
any provincial barrier that the Constitution makers adopted Article 286 in the
 Smith v. Hughes
 The defendant was a common prostitute who lived at No. 39 Curzon Street,
London, and used the premises for the purposes of prostitution. On November 4,
1959, between 8.50 p.m. and 9.05 p.m. the defendant solicited men passing in
the street, for the purposes of prostitution, from a first-floor balcony of No. 39
Curzon Street. It was contended on behalf of the defendant, inter alia, that the
balcony was not ‘in a Street’ within the meaning of section 1(1) of the Street
Offences Act, 1959, and that accordingly no offence had been committed.
 “The sole question here is whether in those circumstances the appellant was
soliciting in a street or public place. The words of s. 1(1) of the Act are in this
form: ‘It shall be an offence for a common prostitute to loiter or solicit in a street
or public place for the purpose of prostitution’.
 Considering what is the mischief aimed at by this Act, Everybody knows that
this was an Act intended to clean up the streets, to enable people to walk along
the streets without being molested or solicited by common prostitutes. Viewed in
that way, it can matter little whether the prostitute is soliciting while in the street
or is standing in a doorway or on a balcony, Hence she would be liable


 On expiry of the term of the committee known as Board of Directors of a
specified society under the Maharashtra Cooperative Societies Act, 1960 the
Collector notified the election programme without specifying that the two seats
on the committee would be reserved seats; one for the members belonging to the
Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes and one for the weaker section of the
members of the society.
 Pursuant to that election programme the poll was held and the result was
declared. The said election was challenged by a member of the society
belonging to Scheduled Tribe on the ground that the whole of the election
programme is vitiated on account of its non compliance with the mandatory
statutory provision enacted in sec. 73B which prescribed reservation of seats;
one in favour of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes and another in favour of
weaker section from the members of the society.
 In the instant case, according to mischief rule the use of the expression 'shall' in
sec. 73B clearly mandates obligation to reserve. The section itself clearly
manifests legislative intention when it says that 'if no such persons are elected or
appointed,' the reserved seats may be filled in by co-option. The language and
the chronology of the methodology of filling in reserved seats employed in sec.
73B provide a clue to its correct construction and there should be no doubt that
opportunity must be provided for filling in seats by election. It is the failure of
the election machinery to fill in the seats by election which would enable the
concerned authority to fill in seats by appointment or co-option.
 Corkery v Carpenter(1950)

 Defendant was in charge of a bicycle whilst drunk. The defendant was accused
of being drunk in charge of a carriage. He was in fact riding a cycle. Section 12
made it an offence to be ‘drunk while in charge on any highway . . of any
carriage, horse, cattle, or steam engine’.
 Held: The Act was to be read purposively. The mischief rule allowed the court to
hold that a carriage included a bicycle. A bicycle is a "carriage" the mischief was
drinking and driving at a high speed on the highway, while being in charge of
transport, amounts to be a mischief which needs to be surpressed.
 Socio-economic legislation which is aimed at social or economic policy
changes, the interpretation should not be narrow.
 Beneficial Construction is a tendency and not a rule. The reason is that this
principle is based on human tendency to be fair, accommodating, and just.
Instead of restricting the people from getting the benefit of the statute, Court
tends to include as many classes as it can while remaining faithful to the
wordings of the statute.
 In the case of Sant Ram v Rajinderlal, the Supreme Court said that welfare
legislation must be interpreted in a third World perspective favoring the weaker
and poor class. It has also been laid down in the case of labor legislation that
courts should not stick to grammatical constructions but also have regard to the
protective intendment of the legislation.

 B Shah v Presiding Officer, Labour Court, court applied beneficent rule of

construction in construing section 5 of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, which
makes the employer liable to pay maternity benefit to woman worker at the rate
of average daily wage for the period of her actual absence immediately
preceding and including the day of her delivery and for six weeks immediately
following that day.
 The court held that Sundays must also be included and held that the Act was
intended not only to subsist but also make up for her dissipated energy and take
care of child. The Act was read in the light of Article 42
 Unichoyi v. State of Kerala
Whether the minimum wages act, 1948 in which state government is empowered to
fix minimum wages is violative of Aricle 19(1) (g) because it does not define
minimum wages.
The court, while applying beneficial construction held that in an underdeveloped
country which faces the problem of unemployment on a very large scale, it is
not unlikely that labour may offer to work even on starvation wages. The policy
of the Act is to prevent the employment of such sweated labour in the interest of
general public and so in prescribing the minimum rates, the capacity of the
employer need not be considered. What is being prescribed is minimum wage
rates which a welfare State assumes every employer must pay before he
employs labour.