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Interpretation of statute – The Intention of Legislation

Updated: May 23, 2022

Interpretation of statute – The Intention of Legislation


The main intention behind the interpretation of the statute is to unlock the locks put by the

Legislature .The formal act of the Legislature in written form is known as statute. It declares the will of the Legislature.

The art of finding out the original intention of enactment by giving the words of the enactment their natural and ordinary meaning is known as Interpretation. Interpretation haphazardly is not anticipated by the court, 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’. [1]

Definition and meaning of interpretation

According to Salmond , Interpretation or construction is, “the process by which the court seeks to ascertain the meaning of legislature through the medium of authoritative forms in which it is expressed.” Cross defines, “Interpretation is a process by which the court determines the meaning of a statutory provision. It is for the purpose of applying it to the situations before them.

The term interpretations means “to give meaning to”.

Case law

– In “Nathibai V/s Maheshwari Samaj Kamola Trust”, the court held that the term interpretation means that it is not open to co courts to curtail or enlarge the provision beyond obvious meaning. Interpretation has to carry the object and meaning without distraction.

Importance of Interpretation of Statutes

Reasons why statutory interpretation is necessary

are as follows:

1. Inconsistency, unclear and ambiguous language can arise from the ambiguity of the laws

regarding the essence of the subject, various draughtsmen and the combination of legal and

technical language.

2. The will of the legislature is expressed generally in the form of statute and it is for the court to find out the real intention of the legislature from the language used in the statute.

 The 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.

3. Object of interpretation of statute

The object of interpretation of statutes is to determine the intention of the legislature conveyed expressly or impliedly in the language used.

Case law

: In “Santi Swarup Sarkar V/s Pradeep Kumar Sarkar”, the Supreme Court held that two

interpretations are possible of the same statute, the one which validates the statute must be preferred.

Intention of Legislation

A statute is an edict of the legislature and the conventional way of interpreting or construing a statute is to seek the "intention" of its maker. A statute is to be construed according "to the intent of those that make it" and "the duty of judicature is to act upon the true intention of the Legislature— the mens or sententia legis ".

The expression "intention of the Legislature" is a shorthand reference to the meaning of the words used by the Legislature objectively determined with the guidance furnished by the accepted principles of interpretation. The conventional way of interpreting a statute is to seek the ‘intention’ of its maker. The duty of the judicature is to act upon the true intention of the legislature. If a statutory provision to open to more than one interpretation, the court has to choose that interpretation which represents the two intention of the legislature.

The intention of the legislature has two concepts – the first is the ‘concept of meaning’ it conveys and second is the concept of ‘purpose and object’ or ‘reason & spirit’ pervading the statute, purpose of construction, therefore combines both literal and purposive (logical) approaches.

The most fair 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 the effects and consequences or the spirit and reason of the law.’

Guiding lines to frame intention of legislature are: – 

The context (pari materiae. external aid to interpretation).  The subject matter.  The effects and consequences.  The spirit or reason of the law.

Intention of legislature is assessed either in express words or by necessary implication in keeping mind the purpose or object of the statute. According to J , A mechanical interpretation of the words and application of legislature intent devoid of concept will make most of the remedial and beneficent legislation futile (ineffective). Judiciary would mold or creatively interpret legislation as they are finishers, refiners and polishers of legislation. Case law : “The Quary owners association V/s The State of Bihar”, AIR 2000 SC 2870; - words in statute- dynamic meaning which gives full thrust and satisfaction to achieve objectivity intended by legislature is to be adopted.

Case Law : “Aswini Kumar V/s Arabinda Bose”, in this case the petitioner argued that being an advocate in the Supreme Court he had a right to act and plead all by himself without any instructions from the attorney. The Supreme Court accepted this contention by a majority. One of the minority judges held that , to find out the true intention of the legislature, it was necessary to take all the parts of the statute together for interpreting any provision in it.

Case Law : “Newspapers Limited V/s State Industrial Tribunal”, the Supreme Court held the reference had on the ground that it was not an industrial dispute of which the dismissed employee was a workman of the employers. It was observed that the industrial dispute act as a whole should be read while interpreting the constituent parts of it.

Conclusion Statutory interpretation is the court's primary role. The statute is passed by the Legislature and is in the possession of the court to interpret it if there is a conflict. As it reflects the will of the legislature in the form of a law. The starting point for interpretation is the law The judges should only assume the role of interpreters and not the role of the reformers which belong to the legislators and if they do so, such decisions can be overruled and nullified legislators.

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