Rules of Interpretation

1. The words of a Statute must be understood in their natural, ordinary or popular sense and construed according to their grammatical meaning unless such construction leads to some absurdity or unless there is something in the context or in the object of the Statute to the contrary. The golden rule is that the words of a Statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning. It is yet another rule of construction that when the words of a Statute are clear, plain and unambiguous, then the Courts are bound to give effect to that meaning irrespective of the consequences. It is said that the words themselves best declare the intention of the law giver. The Courts have adhered to the principle that efforts should be made to give meaning to each and every word used by the legislature and it is not a sound principle of construction to brush aside words in a Statute as being inapposite surpluses, if they can have proper application in circumstances conceivable within the contemplation of the Statute.

2. The courts must interpret the provisions of the Statute upon ascertaining the object of the legislation through the medium or authoritative forms in which it is expressed. It is well settled that the Court should, while interpreting the provisions of the Statute, assign its ordinary meaning.

3. In relation to beneficent construction, the basic rules of interpretation are not to be applied where (i) the result would be re-legislation of a provision by addition, substitution or alteration of words and violence would be done to the spirit of legislation, (ii) where the words of a Provision are capable of being given only one meaning and (iii) where there is no ambiguity in a provision, however, the Court may apply the rule of beneficent construction in order to advance the object of the Act.

4. Beneficial legislations should have liberal construction with a view to implementing the legislative intent but where such beneficial legislation has a scheme of its own there is no warrant for the Court to travel beyond the scheme and extend the scope of the statute on the pretext of extending the statutory benefit to those who are not covered by the scheme.

See Union of India Through Director of Income Tax v. M/s Tata Chemicals Ltd. (Supreme Court of India, 2014); Gurudevdatta VKSSS Maryadit v. State of Maharashtra (Supreme Court of India, 2001); Shyam Sunder v. Ram Kumar (Supreme Court of India, 2001); Regional Director, ESI Corpn. v. Ramanuja Match Industries, (Supreme Court of India, 1985)

Author: Vikrant Narayan Vasudeva
Photo by fusion-of-horizons/ CC BY 2.0