Interpretation is the skill of understanding the true meaning of an act. It
is a process for determining the actual meaning of the terminology used in a
statute. As it is not anticipated that the Court will view it arbitrarily, these
concepts have developed through the courts' ongoing use. The law must be put
into practice once it has been established. It is difficult for Parliament to
specify how a statute should be applied in every circumstance.
Giving a law's words their natural and ordinary meaning is the art of
interpretation, which reveals the law's underlying meaning. It is the process of
figuring out what a law's terms really imply. While the Court is not expected to
interpret cases arbitrarily, certain rules have developed as a result of ongoing
judicial practice. These rules are occasionally referred to as "rules of
interpretation." In the matter at hand, the court applies any rule that results
in a resolution that meets its sense of justice.
The literal rule is the one that is addressed in plain words the most, but the
courts recognize the validity of all three and reference them as ad hoc criteria
without, of course, providing any justification for picking one over the other.
For instance, the literal rule might be favored over the deadly rule in some
circumstances, but the opposite might apply in others. It was impossible to know
with certainty which strategy will be used in a given situation.
Statement Of Purpose
The statement of purpose of interpretation of statutes is not to limit the
meaning of a statute or keep it within the bounds that a court may deem
acceptable or practical, but rather to assist judges in comprehending the
legislative intent. Interpretation of statutes is to aid judges in understanding
legislative intent, not to restrict that meaning or keep it within parameters
that the judge may think reasonable or practical.
Scope Of Problem
The scope of problem were to inspect the following:
- To evaluate the legal definition and understanding of interpretation of
- To do research on rules of interpretation.
- To know all about how judge use approach of interpretation of statute
while deciding case.
- Size of the study is too small that the topic is been allocated with
only the applicability of the policy in India.
- The constraint of the research study is also very thin that the sources
from which information is been collected are mostly subordinate sources due
to time limitations.
The research methodology adopted for this research paper is based on doctrinal
study based on secondary sources which includes books, e sources, articles,
journals and research Sections
- Whether courts should interpret statues so as to give effect to the
intention or purpose of that legislation following purposive approach or
- What is the aspect of harmonious construction interpretation in the
statute in the current scenario?
- What are the views of interpretation of statutes by different- different
- Explain Judicial Interpretation of Statutes by Indian courts with the
help or Case Laws?
Use of Legislative History in Statutory Interpretation by Thinini Khandawaarachi,
49(02) JOURNAL OF THE INDIAN LAW INSTITUTE
The article discusses the function of legal interpretation, which is to
ascertain the legislative intent. The meaning of legal terminology might be used
to locate it. "How do the courts decide if a law is applicable?" is the inquiry
that follows. It cannot be avoided. Legal scholars have debated the use of legal
history in law for centuries. The definition and components of legal history
vary depending on the state and jurisdiction in question. Legal history has
historically been utilized to determine the legislative intent that underlies
the meaning of a law and has played a significant part in the quest for a law's
goal or purpose.
Supreme Court on Statutory Interpretation, K. R. Chandratre, The Appropriate
Purpose of a Provision, 41(01) TAX AND CORPORATE REFERENCE (2007)
This article discusses the guidelines to be followed when applying any specific
method for interpreting statutes, given that it is Conjunctive or Disjunctive:
It states that "or" is typically thought of as Conjunctive and "and" as
Disjunctive. Consequently, until the opposite intention arises or the purpose of
the legislation so necessitates, it is not conceivable to depart from the prior
rule. The rule is based on the general presumption of consistency in the
statute, i.e., how it would apply under various clauses and provisions of the
statute. That the theory is particularly effective when used with relevant by
The role of a judge is one that is paramount. One of the judiciary's most
important responsibility or duties is the interpretation of current statutes or
laws. Interpretation of statute refers to the process of determining the true
meaning of the words used in a statute. The legal frameworks, which strictly
define the parameters within which the courts must operate when rendering
justice in a legal issue, include specific laws, statutes, The Constitution, and
Rules of interpretation are not necessary when the language of the act is clear.
Nonetheless, a word or statement might have more than one meaning in some
circumstances. In order to avoid giving statutes an improper interpretation, the
court should follow certain guidelines. Some important rules of interpretation
of statutes are literal or grammatical rule , The Mischief rule , The golden
rule and The Harmonious Construction.
Taking about role and approach of the judges in the interpretation of statutes,
the position of a judge is quite important. These are the ideal tools for
handling and resolving cases with the assistance of the current legal system.
They are interested in improving the purpose, validity, and nature of laws. The
realists argued that there might be numerous justifications for the judge's
judgement and that it was not necessarily required to offer legal justification.
Judgments are now perfected by their understanding of the law.
When a court renders a decision, it's not just because of the law; it's also
because the judge wants to know what the legislators' goals were. The judge
interprets the law in light of what he believes to be the legislative intent.
Meaning Of Interpretation Of Statutes
Interpretation of statutes is the process of determining the true meaning of the
words used in a statute. Rules of interpretation are not necessary when the
language of the act is clear. Nonetheless, a word or statement might have more
than one meaning in some circumstances.
The Latin term "interpretari
" which means "to explain, expound,
understand, or translate," is the source of the word. Interpretation is the
process of interpreting, developing, and translating any written text or other
written material. Discovering the true meaning of the wording employed in the
statute is essentially what this entails. The sources utilised to study the
written text and explain what the terms employed in the written text or the
statutes actually mean are limited.
The interpretation of statues is the correct understanding of the law. This
approach is commonly used by courts to determine the precise legislative goal.
Because the goal of the court is to apply the law meaningfully to each
individual instance, rather than just reading it. It is also used to assess how
any Act or document actually reads in light of the legislature's original
Need Of Interpretation Of Statutes
- The statute's use of ambiguous language:
Certain words may have more than one interpretation at a given time.
Additionally, it might not be clear which interpretation meanings applies.
- Environment change:
As we all know, society undergoes periodic change. Future occurrences could
not be anticipated in a society if new changes are not taken into
- Complexities of the statues:
Statutes are typically lengthy and complex. They include jargon, technical
phrases, and difficult-to-understand vocabulary. Their complexity can cause
- When a specific area isn't covered by the law:
Every time new legislation is passed, there are some grey areas that need to
be filled in. Interpretation fills in these gaps.
- Drafting error:
Without sufficient subject understanding, the draft could be created. It
might also occur when the proper grammar and appropriate vocabulary aren't
used. As a result, the document is ambiguous and the legislature is left in
- Incomplete rules:
There are a few implicit laws, norms, and privileges that are not explicitly
stated in the statutes, and when these are not clearly established in the
statutes, it creates uncertainty.
In his book The Nature of Judicial Process, Cardozo made the pertinent
observation that a judge's ability to make an informed decision can be hampered
by both conscious and unconscious influences.
He can also make reference to several views of justice, which were promoted by
Western intellectuals at the same time.
Utilitarian Justice Philosophy
Jeremy Bentham championed his well-known utilitarian theory, saying that
enacting legislation should be the main goal in ensuring that the greatest
number of people receive equal justice.
Rawl's Punishment Philosophy
Justice is the first virtue of the social institution, according to Rawl's, who
has promoted the theory of social contracts. The principles of Rawl's theory of
justice, which emphasise rights, social equity, democracy, etc., will be clearly
seen in Indian judgements.
Gandhian Theory Of Justice
It is based on the principles of fairness, equality, and reality and the concept
of Lok Adalath is an original contribution from India to international law and
is founded on Gandhian principles.
Here are two competing viewpoints on how judges should evaluate a statue's
significance: the strict, literal approach and the more lax, purpose-based
The literal approach:
According to this idea of judicial interpretation, judges should primarily look
to the wording of the law to determine its meaning and, unless in extremely
limited circumstances, they should not seek beyond or behind the law to
determine its meaning. The literal method is frequently used in English law.
The purposive approach:
This opposed to judges restricting their search for meaning to a literal
interpretation of the law's words. It suggests that, when appropriate, the
judge's interpretive role should include the ability to look beyond the words of
the statute to determine the rationale behind its enactment. The meaning should
then be interpreted in the context of that rationale and in a way that will make
Rules Of Interpretation
The literal rule essentially examines what the law expresses, rather than what
it implies. It takes into account the word's initial meaning. Judges cannot
create the language in this situation and interpret it based on the facts.
Judges will apply this literal rule of interpretation when the language is plain
and the words have only one meaning.
When a term has only one meaning. Courts are prevented from taking a position on
legislative or political problems by this rule. All technical words are given
their ordinary meaning unless the act specifies otherwise, and if a word in the
statute has a specific meaning, it will typically be indicated in the
interpretation clause. The choice of words is crucial and has a significant
impact on how the context is understood.
Never should a court deviate from what the legislature intended. There is no
need to provide a natural or ordinary sense explanation when the statute's
language are clear and unambiguous in themselves.
R v. Harriss, 1836
In the R v. Harris
, the victim's nose was chewed off by the defendant.
The legislation states that a person cannot be "stabbed, cut, or damaged.". In
this case, the court followed the literal rule; biting did not fall under the
definition of stab, cut, or wound because those phrases suggested the use of an
instrument. Hence, the conviction of the defendant was overturned.
- Judges began to emphasize the precise meaning of statute provisions more
than the context's broader implications.
- This approach disregards limitations of the language.
- As time goes on, words lose some of their original meaning.
- Basing it on the fallacious notion that a term has a single, unchanging
- The statute lacks clarification.
- This influences our preconceptions and establishes the statute's
The British Rule of Interpretation, often known as the Golden Rule, is a method
of statutory interpretation that permits a court to deviate from a word's usual
meaning in order to prevent a ridiculous outcome. As we all know, applying the
law as written can occasionally result in confusion and absurd outcomes. To
avoid these outcomes, judges will give attorneys the chance to reinterpret the
law in a way that is more certain and relevant to their particular case.
The compromise approach between the literal rule and the mischief rule is
another name for this type of interpretation. In accordance with the literal
rule, courts will only use the word as it is intended, although occasionally
this might be unreasonable and lead to unexpected outcomes that are unlikely to
be what the legislator intended.
In two main circumstances, this rule is applied:
Adler v George case, 1964
- When a word's definition is too limited.
- When the meaning of the phrase itself is unclear or ludicrous.
In the Adler v. George case
, Obstructing HM Troops at a forbidden area
was against the law according to section 3 of the "official secrets act, 1920."
For obstructing soldiers while in a restricted location, Adler was detained.
Adler did not violate the conditions of the act since, according to The Literal
Rule, he was in the region and not just close by. The Golden Rule was used to
broaden the definition of "vicinity" and prevent the potentially ludicrous
- This violates the Separation of power between the legislative and
judicial branches of government.
- In this case, judges technically have the authority to change the law by
altering the meaning of the statute's terms.
- Only when the statute is nonsensical may this strategy be applied.
The Mischief Rule
A method of statutory interpretation known as the "mischief rule "which, aims to
establish the legislators' intentions. It essentially had its beginnings in the
Heydon's case in the 16th century in the United kingdom. Its primary goal is
to determine the harm and flaw of the in question previous statute and how the
new statute will come up with the remedy that corrects the flaw.
The major goal of making changes to the legislation is to expand its coverage of
various situations by adding new regions or making certain adjustments to the
current law. The purpose of passing new legislation is to address issues that
previous laws were unable to address. Additionally, this aids in determining the
answers to any queries that the prior law did not address.
Therefore, this is where we can see how the process of passing legislation has a
retrospective effect and because there is a reason for making this regulation,
it is also known as purposive construction. Here, the court makes an effort to
determine the legislators' motivation for changing the legislation. It also
makes an effort to examine the flaw and harm that the prior law had, which
caused it to be replaced.
Thomas v. Lord Clan Morris
In the Thomas v. Lord Clan Morris
, it was claimed that while
interpreting any law legislation, one should not limit themselves to
interpreting the words and phrases employed, but also take into account the
history of the act and the justifications for its passage.
The Rule Of Harmonious Contraction
When there is a contradiction between two or more statutes or between two
provisions of a single statute, this rule of interpretation is used. Every
legislation has a purpose, so judges should take that purpose into account and
read the law as a whole when they are interpreting it. Courts should enforce any
regulations that are in the public interest. The laws that are applied must be
uniform and shouldn't conflict with other laws already in place. The use of such
statutes by the courts should be avoided since they muddy the issue and lead to
In cases where it is impossible to harmonise two statutory provisions, the
judges' judgement will take precedence over all else. The judges should bring
unity and do what is just for both parties when there is "a head-on
confrontation" between the legal provisions.
The Supreme Court outlined the harmonic norm, which states that when two laws of
the same statute conflict with one another, both provisions must be interpreted
so that others are given equal weight. Here, one provision will not take
precedence over another; rather, it attempts to harmonise with other provisions
that disagree with it and prevents the destruction of one provision.
Cit V. Hindustan Bulk Carrier
In the historic decision five guiding principles of the Harmonious Construction
rule were established by the Supreme Court in CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers
Judicial Interpretation By Indian Courts
- Such clauses that are inherently conflicting and cause the two sides to
directly collide should not be allowed by the courts
- The courts must interpret laws in a way that reconciles conflicting
- One section's provision cannot override another section's provision.
- When the court is unable to reach a compromise with both parties, it
should at least interpret the law so that both clauses are given as much
weight as feasible.
- Judges must remember that an interpretation that renders one provision
meaningless is not harmonic; in this case, harmonising does not mean
In the interpretation of statutes judges can interpret laws in both literal and
purposeful ways, depending on the circumstances of each individual case. This is
because judicial interpretation of the law evolves over time. For instance, the
ability of the parliament to alter the constitution has been interpreted
differently over time and in various situations.
In the case of Golaknath case (1967)
In the Golaknath v. State of Punjab
, it is alleged that Parliament
lacks the authority to amend fundamental rights. It was also stated that Article
368 only gives Parliament the right to initiate the constitutional amendment
process. Fundamental Rights now have a "transcendental status" as a result of
In the case of Kesavananda Bharti Case
In the Keshwananda Bharti case, Golaknath verdict was overruled by the
Supreme Court, which declared that parliament might limit or eliminate basic
rights. The basic framework of the constitution was established, and it was
decided that the constituent power of the parliament under Article 368 does not
allow it to change the fundamental framework of the constitution. We can
therefore deduce from this how the judiciary regarded these cases in various
historical and social contexts.
In the case of Maneka Gandhi case (1978)
A crucial issue in this case was whether the right to go abroad is covered by
Article 21's definition of the Right to Personal Liberty. It is a component of
the right to personal liberty, according to the SC. The Court further ruled that
limiting personal freedom only needed an enabling law to be in place.
Additionally, such a law must be "just, fair, and reasonable."
In the case MC Mehta and Union Of India (1986)
The application of Article 32, the Rylands v. Fletcher
rule of absolute
culpability, and the compensation question were three challenged in this case.
The Court concluded that where rights are breached, its competence under Article
32 covers both preventive and corrective measures. Also, it was established that
industries that engage in dangerous or inherently destructive activities should
adopt absolute liability.
With the facts of the above analysis of the paper it is to be concluded that
judges should interpret the law deliberately and wisely. Judge must
contemplatively observe the law before being able to identify its defects.
Judges are supposed to interpret the law as the legislature intended it, yet
they occasionally find errors or faults that make the legislation less
legitimate. Judges must use their intellect to identify and correct any defects
or errors in the law.
Many Author wasn't arguing that judges should only use a literal or purposeful
interpretation; rather, he meant that if a statute's provision has a clear
meaning and is free of errors or faults, judges should apply that interpretation
and take the importance of the legislators into consideration. However the judge
should correct any errors right away.
The author holds the opinion that judges should interpret statutes in their
literal form because the essence of a law can be found in the way it was created
or drafted by legislators, but if a statute contains ambiguous or vague
language, judges should apply their judgement and interpret the law in a way
that serves its intended purpose.
Every case has its own circumstances and situations, so the author's point is
that there may be flaws in statutes that law makers did not see coming and were
unable to clarify, which led to confusion and chaos in the future whenever a
case arose. However, if the statute is clear and understandable and there are no
flaws in it that clearly resolve the case and are justified, the judge should
- R v. Harriss, 1836
- Adler v George case, 1964
- Thomas v. Lord Clan Morris
- Cit v. Hindustan bulk carrier
- Golaknath case (1967)
- Keshwananda Bharti
- Maneka Gandhi case (1978)
- MC Mehta and Union Of India (1986)
- Interpretation Of Statutes By Justice A.K Srivastava, Judge Delhi
- Interpretation Of Statutes: A Treatise- Articles
- Interpretation of statutes- Penn Carey law : Legal Scholarship
- R v Harris (1836) 7 C & P 446
- Adler v George  1 All ER 628
- Heydon's Case (1584) 76 ER 637
- Thomson V Lord Clanmorris  1 CH. 718; CA
- In direct opposition, confrontation, or contradiction
- CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers (2003)3 SCC 57
- Golaknath v. State Of Punjab (1967 AIR 1643, 1967 SCR (2) 762).
- Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973) 4 SCC 225; AIR 1973 SC
- 1978 AIR 597, 1978 SCR (2) 621
- 1987 AIR 1086, 1987 SCR (1) 819
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