ReferencerChapterTwo – Interpretation of Statutes Glossary · Statute – Statute means the written will of a legislative body asexpressed through an Act passed by the Parliament or a state legislature. · Interpretation of statutes· Codifying· Declaratory· Remedial · Amending· Consolidating· Enabling · Disabling/restraining· Longanswer questionsQ. What are statutes? Explain the various types ofstatutes.Ans.Statutes are acts passed by the legislature or parliament and made into laws.
They represent the will of the legislative of a nation or of a state. Laws made in this way are seen as primarylaws, i.e. as highest sources of legal power, as opposed to secondary laws madeby authorities other than the legislature of that nation or state. Types of statutes –Statutescan be of the following kinds – – Codifying statutes – These make a law for a subject for the first time,i.e.
statutes that cover new ground hitherto uncovered. For example, the Rightto Information Act, which has been made for the first time in India.- Declaratory statutes – The ones that declare or clarify somethingalready encapsulated in some act, for example, the various amendment actspassed, which give clarifications for previously passed acts.- Remedial statutes – These are to change the secondary law, i.e. lawmade by some other authorities, not through the legislature. – Amending statutes – When it seeks to amend some legislative law alreadyin existence.
– Consolidating statutes – When they merge or combine several otherstatutes existing in a disjoint manner until then. – Enabling statutes – When they eliminate the difficulties present in anexisting statute.- Disabling statutes – Those that stop certain acts. – Penal statutes – Which set outthe punishments or penalties. Q. What are the primary rules used in interpretation of statutes?Ans.There are Primary and Secondary rules of interpretation. While trying tointerpret a statute, we first attempt to work with the Primary rules; if theyfail, we seek the Secondary rules to unlock the meaning of the statute understudy.
ThePrimary Rules of Interpretation are – (i) Literal construction – This rule says that in interpretation of astatute, we should give primary importance to the literal meaning of its wordsand phrases. In doing so, we should understand the words in their basiccustomary, grammatical context and not put any external meaning to the words.Neither should we try to extend the meaning of the words used in the statute.The only limitation to this rule is when such a construction does not includewithin its purview a part of the statute. Then we need to use the other rulesof interpretation so that we can put to use the entire act. (ii) The Mischief Rule/ Heydon’s Rule – According to this rule, when weinterpret statutes, we need to consider some facts – – what was the rule pertaining to the subject matter before the currentstatute was made- what was the mischief or wrong that the common law did not cover tillthen, so that need for a special law was felt- the solution established by the new statute and the motive behind it. These principles wereestablished by Lord Coke in the famous case of Sir John Heydon.
It was decided that when the literal meaning of the words ofa statute is obscured, then seeking the mischief which the act seeks to corrector mitigate would help in its interpretation. (iii)Rule of reasonable construction – Ut res magis valeat quam pereat According to this rule, while constructing themeaning of a statute, although we utilize the common or ordinary meaning of thewords used in it, it should be done while according due regard to thefollowing– -Thesubject matter or the core concern of the act-The objective intended to be fulfilled by it, for example, the wrongs it seeksto address. If we ignore these two things and take thewords at their literal, face value, chances are that the interpretation wouldbe faulty. Only a well-rounded meaning would be of practical use, as it wouldhelp assign a sensible meaning to the act. Hence, the act of interpretation wouldbegin from taking the literal or dictionary meanings of the words of a statute,subjecting them to a scrutiny in light of its objective and only if suchmeanings do not give a correct sense of the act should we resort to alteringthe meanings of the words according to the context.
(iv)Rule of Harmonious Construction – Where two provisions of the same enactmentcannot be reconciled with each other they should be so interpreted that, ifpossible, effect may be given to both. This is the rule of HarmoniousConstruction. It helps in maintaining a link between the parts of a statute orbetween parts within a particular section when there is any discrepancy betweenthem. By doing so, it ensures that no part is rendered redundant.
The meaningis so construed that both the parts play a role in it. (v) Rule of Ejusdem Generis – It is one of the basicprinciples of interpretation. The term itself means ‘of the same kind’, andhelps when the statute is not clear as to the implications and coverage.
Therule says that when there is a specific class or classes of acts or things orpersons defined in an Act, any word occurring subsequently will be bound bytheir coverage, i.e. a wider meaning than the one defined cannot be taken. Forexample, under the Central Excise Tariff Act, there are lists of items thatcome under the same head. If one of the lists say that it is to include textilearticles, viz, clothing, sheets, bed covers, etc.
, it can in no way beinclusive of articles that cannot be termed strictly as being made of textile,like sheets made majorly of a synthetic fibre, though containing a smallpercentage of cotton fibre. Hence, if the list is an exhaustive or fairlyindicative list, a wider meaning cannot be given to it. If,however, there is no specific list, or the class is not that well defined, theapplication could cover a wider scope. The universal logic behind thisprinciple is that if a statute had been intended for a general coverage, itwould not have included specific words to define the scope of its usage. It isessential though, that this rule should be used with discretion, because thereexists the practical risk of the act becoming too specific for actual use. Q.
Commenton the Secondary Rules of Interpretation of statutes.Ans.The Secondary Rules of Interpretation are – (i) Expressio Unis Est Exclusio Alterius – Literally this rule means that’items not expressly included in the list are deemed to be excluded’, i.e. whatthe statute does not mention, is not covered by it. It has to be judged fromthe language of the statute whether an item has been willfully left out or ithas happened due to inadvertence. An inclusive list would be so defined by theuse of terms like ‘includes’, ‘and’,’also’ etc. For example, if a statute says that it is made for controllingpublic services like sanitation, electricity supply and water, these are theonly things to be included, to the exclusion of all others.
The use of thisrule will be limited to uses that do not border on the absurd, unfair orcontradictory.(ii) Contemporanea Expositio Est Optima Et Fortissima In Lege – The literalmeaning of this expression is – the contemporary meaning is the optimum andmost compelling and effective interpretation. This gives a strong context tothe statute, as the best meaning can be derived from the meaning the words hadwhen the statute was first made. The contemporary conditions of the law of theperiod are reflected in the words of the statutes when they are understoodaccording to their original meanings. (iii) Noscitur a socitis – It is one of the rules of interpretation.
According to it, the meaning of a word has to be derived from the wordsmentioned along with it in the statute. This is because words at times havecontextual meanings, and support complete interpretation only when read withcontiguous words. This rule can be used when the word carries the same meaningeverywhere in the statute, but not where alternative meanings are possible.This rule, like other rules of interpretation, is not resorted to when using itwould lead to absurdities of interpretation, or when the perspective differs,or when the usage is in a different condition. (iv) Strict and liberal construction – They areboth ways of interpretation of statutes. Strict construction means that thestatute should be followed in letter, i.
e. only that should be given effect towhich is expressly stated in the act. No external inputs or extended usage isallowed. Such a construction would give more importance to the literal meaningof the words, without putting much premium on external information. Liberalconstruction means that the statute has to be followed in the spirit of theact, i.
e. whatever can be done to give effect to the intention of thelegislature in making that statute has to be done. This will include sourcesother than the internal ones. For example, following the Mischief Rule, one caneasily gain the intention of the statute, thus giving effect to its originalobjective. Q. What are the internal aids used in interpretationof statutes? When are they used?Ans.
The internal aids are mostly those elements that form a part of the actitself. They are used when there is sufficient help provided within the statuteitself to give us a good understanding as to its meaning. Chiefamong them are – (i) Title of the act – There can be along title and a short title. The long title can be used for understanding thecontext and brief description of the act, but the short title performs neitherof these functions. For example, the Foreign Exchange Management Act gives usan idea that it contains rules about foreign earnings and currency, but FEMAdoes not give us any idea unless we already what the acronym stands for. (ii) Preamble – The preamble specifiesthe intention behind the making of the act, i.
e. what is the mischief that themakers of the act sought to correct. It can be one of the key starting pointswhen we begin to understand a statute. (iii) Chapter heads or separateheadings separating the act into parts – This will help be dividing the actinto smaller parts, which are logically and sequentially linked to enhancecomprehension.
Especially if we need to refer to a particular part, and not thewhole of the act, these help us in getting to the right portion without losingvaluable time.(iv) Marginal notes – These aregenerally not given much weightage if the meaning of the statute is clear Iitself, but where there is an ambiguity, these can provide an idea as to thegeneral meaning behind the statute. (v) Interpretative clauses – Thesemay be portions where definitions or clarifications regarding the inclusions insections or definitions of words have been given, as used in the statute. Thesecan be inclusive or exhaustive definitions. (vi) Proviso to a section – This givesthe treatment of exceptional cases; those which can be called asqualifications, as they are to be treated in a different manner. It isgenerally in a very language, and without any ambiguity. It has to be kept inmind though, that it provides the exception to that particular section andcannot be applied as a common rule.
(vii) Examples, illustrations orexplanations – If within the coverage of the provision of the section theyrelate to, they can be treated as valuable aids to interpretation, as theysimplify the application of the section. They cannot, in any case, be seen asmaking any extra provisions not mentioned in the section itself. (viii) Schedules – These are there inrelation to the act itself as they provide the information mentioned in somepart of the act in greater detail, which aids application of the section. Theyhelp in making the main act concise and provide a well-organized way ofpresenting the statute. For example, the XIII Schedule of the Companies Act,1956. Q. Whatexternal aids can we use for interpretation of statutes? Ans.The external or peripheral aids –Theyare as under – (i) Legislative or parliamentaryhistory – This would help in giving a general direction to theinterpretation.
The parliamentaryhistory helps in understanding the trend of the legislative thought of thecountry thus providing a background for the statute under study.(ii) Committee reports – The reportsthat are used as bases for statutes give a good insight into the very acts.They are specialized studies into the need and scope of the act, as well as itsobjectives. This also helps in clearing confusions about the usage of certainterms used in the act itself, and provides an inside view to the act.(iii) References to statutes in parimateria – This rule of interpretation of statutes says that when there isambiguity in the comprehension of a statute, we can take the help of anotherstatute made on the same subject.
The other statute may have been framed in adifferent time, but if it relates to the same matter, it can provide adirection to the interpretation of the statute in hand. The events for whichthe statutes have been made may be comparable or with the same object. (iv) Dictionaries – When the meaningof terms is not clear from the statute itself, we can refer to dictionaries togather information about them.
However, when we use such meanings in the legalcontext, i.e. in the application of the act, we need to give due regard to thecontext of the term, as the term might carry a different connotation in adissimilar context. (v) Decisions passed by foreigncourts – These can be followed if they pertain to the same subject matter andif countries having a similar legal backdrop have passed them. However, we willuse such decisions when they are contextually relevant. Moreover, we have totake care to adapt them to the indigenous legal context and the other localconditions.
Theexternal aids of interpretation are generally used when the statute is vague orindistinct in meaning. Here, the inner means of interpretation would not servethe purpose and some external means, like the circumstances that prevailed atthe time of making of the statute, committee reports, if any, links with otheracts, dictionaries or even case histories from other countries, would have tobe utilized. If there were other acts leading upto the current one, they couldbe looked into as well on the assumption that they would shed some light overthe current statute. Theseexternal aids, however, have to be used with due care and only in situationswhere the internal ones prove insufficient in giving an understanding of thestatute or its part.
This is because firstly, they are extraneous to thestatute in question, and however close to the subject matter, they might notgive an accurate picture. For example, if an act is made in year 1889 regardinga particular thing, and another is made in year 2008, the earlier act would notgive a true picture if used as an aid for interpretation of the new act. Thisis because the conditions and situations of both acts were different; they weremade against different social, political and economic backdrops. This does notmean that it cannot at all be use for shedding light on the subsequent act; itsimply means that it should be used in moderation and with care, and thecontext and underlying situations too should be kept in mind, while doing so.Only then would the interpretation be a fair one. Short NotesQ. What is the need for interpretation of statutes?Ans. The exercise of interpretation of statutes helps in removing theambiguity in the comprehension of an act.
It aids in understanding the statuteas the author intended it to be understood. The objects of interpretation mightbe as under –- The English language has a lot of scope for contextualinterpretation, since words change meaning when used in different contexts. – It is necessary to know the milieu in which that act was made, i.
e. thestate of the society, the legal conditions, etc.- It becomes essential at time to know the author’s intentions in makingthe act in order to allow it proper room to operate, and to address all theissues it was made for. TheHalsbury’s Laws of England state that interpretation involves getting to thereal meaning of the words of the author of the statute. These have formed thecornerstone of interpretation of statutes. Q. What presumptions are used in interpretation? Ans.
Presumptions are used in the interpretation ofstatutes only when the intention of the legislature is not clear; when it isclear, they are to be avoided. Conjecture or suppositions are used when itbecomes difficult to comprehend the statute in its own light. The basicpresumptions used in the interpretation of statutes are as follows – (i) The words used in the statute have been used in the literal sense withprecise meanings unless otherwise defined. (ii) There has been effected no change I the rights of the people unless thestatute prescribe such a change expressly. (iii) Liability only attaches where there is mens rea (guilty mind).(iv) The state or governmental institutions, unless expressly covered, aredeemed to be exempted.
(v) The legislature, while passing the new statute was aware of the mannerof functioning of the judiciary and the executive as well as the legalcondition in the country and unless stated, has not caused any changes in it.(vi) No mistakes have been committedby the legislature in drafting the statute.(vii) No pointless activity would be enjoined on the people.
(viii) The statute has been madewith a view to exercise the powers given through it equitably and fairly.(ix) Where the statute creates a legal duty that is accompanied by a legalpower, and cannot stand without it, it is assume both go together.