Statutory Interpretation

Where words of a statute are absolutely clear and unambiguous, no interpretation other than literal rule shall apply

It is a settled principle of interpretation that the Court should neither add nor delete words from a statute. Where the words of a statute are absolutely clear and unambiguous, recourse cannot be resorted to the principles of interpretation, other than the literal rule, vide: Swedish Match AB and Another Vs. Securities and Exchange Board, India and Another, . As held in Prakash Nath Khanna and Another Vs. Commissioner of Income Tax and Another, , the language employed in a statute is the determinative factor of the legislative intent. The legislature is presumed to have made no mistake. The presumption is that it intended to say what is has said. Assuming there is a defect or an omission in the words used by the legislature, the Court cannot correct or make up the deficiency, especially when a literal reading thereof produces an intelligible result, vide Delhi Fin. Corpn. and Another Vs. Rajiv Anand and Others, . Where the legislative intent is clear from the language, the Court should give effect to it, vide Government of A.P. and Another Vs. Road Rollers Owners Welfare Association and Others,

In Jinia Keotin and Others Vs. Kumar Sitaram Manjhi and Others, the Supreme Court observed:-

“The Court cannot relegislate on the subject under the guise of interpretation against the legislative will expressed in the enactment itself.”

The rules of interpretation would come into play only if there is any doubt with regard to the express language used. Where the words are unequivocal, there is no scope for importing any rule of interpretation: vide Pandian Chemicals Ltd. Vs. Commissioner of Income Tax,

 It is only where the provisions of a statute are ambiguous that the Court can depart from a literal or strict construction: vide: Nasiruddin and Others Vs. Sita Ram Agarwal, . Where the words of a statute are plain and unambiguous effect must be given to them: vide: Bhaiji Vs. Sub Divisional Officer, Thandla and Others, .

In Hiralal Rattanlal Vs. State of U.P. and Another etc. etc., the Supreme Court observed:

“In construing a statutory provision the first and foremost rule of construction is the literary construction. All that the court has to see at the very outset is what does the provision say. If the provision is unambiguous and if from the provision the legislative intent is clear, the court need not call into aid the other rules of construction of statutes. The other rules of construction are called into aid only when the legislative intent is not clear.”

The same view has been taken in Commissioner of Income Tax, Assam and Nagaland etc. Vs. Shri G. Hyatt, .

In Shiv Shakti Coop. Housing Society, Nagpur Vs. Swaraj Developers and Others, , the Supreme Court observed:-

“It is a well settled principle in law that the Court cannot read anything into a statutory provision which is plain and unambiguous. A statute is an edict of the legislature. The language employed in a statute is the determinative factor of legislative intent.”

 Where the language is clear, the intention of the legislature has to be gathered from the language used: vid Grasim Industries Ltd. Vs. Collector of Customs, Bombay, and Union of India (UOI) and Another Vs. Hansoli Devi and Others,

 The function of the Court is only to expound the law and not to legislate vide District Mining Officer and Others Vs. Tata Iron and Steel Co. and Another, . If we accept the interpretation canvassed by the learned counsel for the respondent we will really be legislating because in the guise of interpretation we will be really amending Section 12(1) of the Act.

In Gurudevdatta VKSSS Maryadit and Others Vs. State of Maharashtra and Others, , the Supreme Court observed:

“It is a cardinal principle of interpretation of statute that 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 suggest 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 the 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 a proper application in circumstances conceivable within the contemplation of the statute.”

The same view has been taken by the Supreme Court in Harshad S. Mehta and Others Vs. The State of Maharashtra, and Patangrao Kadam Vs. Prithviraj Sayajirao Yadav Deshmukh and Others.

The Apex Court in Raghunath Rai Bareja and Another Vs. Punjab National Bank and Others, held that:

It may be mentioned in this connection that the first and foremost principle of interpretation of a statute in every system of interpretation is the literal rule of interpretation. The other rules of interpretation e.g. the mischief rule, purposive interpretation, etc. can only be resorted to when the plain words of a statute are ambiguous or lead to no intelligible results or if read literally would nullify the very object of the statute. Where the words of a statute are absolutely clear and unambiguous, recourse cannot be had to the principles of interpretation other than the literal rule, vide Swedish Match AB and Another Vs. Securities and Exchange Board, India and Another, . As held in Prakash Nath Khanna and Another Vs. Commissioner of Income Tax and Another, , the language employed in a statute is the determinative factor of the legislative intent. The legislature is presumed to have made no mistake. The presumption is that it intended to say what it has said. Assuming there is a defect or an omission in the words used by the legislature, the Court cannot correct or make up the deficiency, especially when a literal reading thereof produces an intelligible result, vide Delhi Fin. Corpn. and Another Vs. Rajiv Anand and Others, . Where the legislative intent is clear from the language, the Court should give effect to it, vide Government of Government of A.P. and Another Vs. Road Rollers Owners Welfare Association and Others, and the Court should not seek to amend the law in the garb of interpretation.

The rules of interpretation other than the literal rule would come into play it there is any doubt with regard to the express language used or if the plain meaning would lead to an absurdity. Where the words are unequivocal, there is no scope for importing any rule of interpretation vide Pandian Chemicals Ltd. Vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, .

It is only where the provisions of a statue are ambiguous that the court can depart from a literal or strict construction vide Nasiruddin and Others Vs. Sita Ram Agarwal, . Where the words of a statue are plain and unambiguous effect must be given to them vide Bhaiji Vs. Sub Divisional Officer, Thandla and Others, .

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Categories: Statutory Interpretation

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