Judicial Dictionary

Statute means

Supreme  Court in the case of Shiv Shakti Co-op. Housing Society, Nagpur v. Swaraj Developers, (2003) 6 SCC 659, while referring to the principles for interpretation of statutory provisions, held as under:

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. Words and phrases are symbols that stimulate mental references to referents. The object of interpreting a statute is to ascertain the intention of the legislature enacting it. (See Institute of Chartered Accountants of India v. Price Waterhouse.) The intention of the legislature is primarily to be gathered from the language used, which means that attention should be paid to what has been said as also to what has not been said. As a consequence, a construction which requires for its support, addition or substitution of words or which results in rejection of words as meaningless has to be avoided. As observed in Crawford v. Spooner Courts cannot aid the legislatures’ defective phrasing of an act, we cannot add or mend, and by construction make up deficiencies which are left there. (See State of Gujarat v. Dilipbhai Nathjibhai Patel). It is contrary to all rules of construction to read words into an act unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. (See Stock v. Frank Jones (Tipton) Ltd.) Rules of interpretation do not permit Courts to do so, unless the provision as it stands is meaningless or of a doubtful meaning. Courts are not entitled to read words into an act of Parliament unless clear reason for it is to be found within the four corners of the act itself. (Per Lord Loreburn, L.C. in Vickers Sons and Maxim Ltd. v. Evans, quoted in Jumma Masjid v. Kodimaniandra Deviah.

 The Law Commission of India, in its 183 rd Report, while dealing with the need for providing principles of interpretation of statute as regards the extrinsic aids of interpretation in General Clauses act, 1897, expressed the view that a statute is a will of legislature conveyed in the form of text. Noticing that the process of interpretation is as old as language, it says that the rules of interpretation were evolved at a very early stage of Hindu civilization and culture and the same were given by ‘Jaimini’, the author of Mimamsat Sutras; originally meant for shrutis, they were employed for the interpretation of Smritis as well. While referring to the said historical background, the Law Commission said:

It is well settled principle of law that as the statute is an edict of the Legislature, the conventional way of interpreting or construing a statute is to seek the intention of legislature. The intention of legislature assimilates two aspects; one aspect carries the concept of ‘meaning’, i.e., what the word means and another aspect conveys the concept of ‘purpose’ and ‘object’ or the ‘reason’ or ‘spirit’ pervading through the statute. The process of construction, therefore, combines both the literal and purposive approaches. However, 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. If the language is clear and unambiguous, no need of interpretation would arise. In this regard, a Constitution Bench of five Judges of the Supreme Court in R.S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay, AIR 1984 SC 684 has held:

…If the words of the Statute are clear and unambiguous, it is the plainest duty of the Court to give effect to the natural meaning of the words used in the provision. The question of construction arises only in the event of an ambiguity or the plain meaning of the words used in the Statute would be self defeating.

Recently, again Supreme Court in Grasim Industries Ltd. v. Collector of Customs, Bombay, (2002) 4 SCC 297 has followed the same principle and observed:

Where the words are clear and there is no obscurity, and there is no ambiguity and the intention of the legislature is clearly conveyed, there is no scope for Court to take upon itself the task of amending or altering the statutory provisions.

Thus, the Court can safely apply rule of plain construction and legislative intent in light of the object sought to be achieved by the enactment. While interpreting the provisions of the act, it is not necessary for the Court to implant, or to exclude the words, or over emphasize language of the provision where it is plain and simple. The provisions of the act should be permitted to have their full operation rather than causing any impediment in their application by unnecessarily expanding the scope of the provisions by implication.