Statutory Interpretation

How to interpret a Statute [ intention of the Legislature ]

It is well accepted that a statute must be construed according to the intention of the Legislature and the Courts should act upon the true intention of the legislation while applying law and while interpreting law. If a statutory provision is open to more than one meaning, the Court has to choose the interpretation which represents the intention of the Legislature. In this connection, the following observations made by this Court in District Mining Officer vs. Tata Iron and Steel Co., (2001) 7 SCC 358, may be noticed:

“… A statute is an edict of the Legislature and in construing a statute, it is necessary, to seek the intention of its maker. A statute has to be construed according to the intent of them that make it and the duty of the Court is to act upon the true intention of the Legislature. If a statutory provision is open to more than one interpretation the Court has to choose that interpretation which represents the true intention of the Legislature. This task very often raises the difficulties because of various reasons, inasmuch as the words used may not be scientific symbols having any precise or definite meaning and the language may be an imperfect medium to convey one’s thought or that the assembly of Legislatures consisting of persons of various shades of opinion purport to convey a meaning which may be obscure.

The well-settled principle is that when the words in a statute are clear, plain and unambiguous and only one meaning can be inferred, the Courts are bound to give effect to the said meaning irrespective of consequences. If the words in the statute are plain and unambiguous, it becomes necessary to expound those words in their natural and ordinary sense. The words used declare the intention of the Legislature. In Kanai Lal Sur v. Paramnidhi Sadhukhan, AIR 1957 SC 907, it was held that if the words used are capable of one construction only then it would not be open to the Courts to adopt any other hypothetical construction on the ground that such construction is more consistent with the alleged object and policy of the Act.