Judicial Dictionary

Construction of documents

In the passing, we may also refer to the observations of a three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in Smt. Kamala Devi vs. Seth Takhatmal & Anr.: (1964) 2 SCR 152, in which the court observed as follows:-

“8. … Sections 94 to 98 of the Indian Evidence.

Act afford guidance in the construction of documents; they also indicate when and under what circumstances extrinsic evidence could be relied upon in construing the terms of a document. Section 94 of the Evidence Act lays down a rule of interpretation of the language of a document when it is plain and applies accurately to existing facts. It says that evidence may be given to show that it was not meant to apply to such facts. When a Court is asked to interpret a document, it looks at its language. If the language is clear and unambiguous and applies accurately to existing facts, it shall accept the ordinary meaning, for the duty of the Court is not to delve deep into the intricacies of the human mind to a certain one’s undisclosed intention, but only to take the meaning of the words used by him, that is to say, his expressed intentions. Sometimes when it is said that a Court should look into all the circumstances to find an author’s intention, it is only for the purpose of finding out whether the words apply, accurately to existing facts. But if the words are clear in the context of the surrounding circumstances, the Court cannot rely on them to attribute to the author an intention contrary to the plain meaning of the words used in the document. The other sections in the said group of sections deal with ambiguities, peculiarities in expression and the inconsistencies between the written words and the existing facts. In the instant case, no such ambiguity or inconsistency exists as we shall demonstrate presently. The Privy Council‘s case was one of ambiguity and the surrounding circumstances gave the clue to find out the real intention of the parties expressed by them.”

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