Beneficial legislation: How to interpret
INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE: While interpreting a statute, the problem or mischief that the statute was designed to remedy should first be identified and then a construction that suppresses the problem and advances the remedy should be adopted. 9 It is settled law that exemption clauses in beneficial or social Indian Performing Rights Society v. Sanjay Dalia, (2015) 10 SCC 161 welfare legislations should be given strict construction 10. It was observed in Shivram A. Shiroor v. Radhabai Shantram Kowshik (supra) that the exclusionary provisions in a beneficial legislation should be construed strictly so as to give a wide amplitude to the principal object of the legislation and to prevent its evasion on deceptive grounds. Similarly, in Minister Administering the Crown Lands Act v. NSW Aboriginal Land Council11, Kirby, J. held that the principle of providing purposive construction to beneficial legislations mandates that exceptions in such legislations should be construed narrowly.
Provisions of a beneficial legislation have to be construed with a purpose-oriented approach. The Act should receive a liberal construction to promote its objects. Also, literal construction of the provisions of a beneficial legislation has to be avoided. It is the Court’s duty to discern the intention of the legislature in making the law. Once such an intention is ascertained, the statute should receive a purposeful or functional interpretation.
The principles of statutory construction are well settled. Words occurring in statutes of liberal import such as social welfare legislation and human rights’ legislation are not to be put in Procrustean beds or shrunk to Liliputian dimensions. In construing these One Earth One Life & Ors. v. State of Kerala, WP (C) No.28496 of 2016 Regional Executive, Kerala Fishermen’ Welfare Fund Board v. Fancy Food, (1995) 4 SCC 34 Bombay Anand Bhavan Restaurant v. ESI Corporation, (2009) 9 SCC 61 and Union of India v. Prabhakaran Vijay Kumar, (2008) 9 SCC 527 Bharat Singh v. Management of New Delhi Tuberculosis Centre, (1986) 2 SCC 614.
Workmen v. American Express International Banking Corpn. (1985) 4 SCC 71 legislations the imposture of literal construction must be avoided and the prodigality of its misapplication must be recognised and reduced. Judges ought to be more concerned with the “colour”, the “content” and the “context” of such statutes (we have borrowed the words from Lord Wilberforce’s opinion in Prenn v. Simmonds [(1971) 3 All ER 237] ). In the same opinion Lord Wilberforce pointed out that law is not to be left behind in some island of literal interpretation but is to enquire beyond the language, unisolated from the matrix of facts in which they are set; the law is not to be interpreted purely on internal linguistic considerations. In one of the cases cited before us, that is, Surendra Kumar Verma v. Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court [(1980) 4 SCC 443], we had occasion to say, “Semantic luxuries are misplaced in the interpretation of ‘bread and butter’ statutes. Welfare statutes must, of necessity, receive a broad interpretation. Where legislation is designed to give relief against certain kinds of mischief, the Court is not to make inroads by making etymological excursions.”