Heading in statute- purpose

HEADINGS.—The headings of a portion of a statute may be referred to in order to determine the sense of any doubtful expressions in sections ranged under it. (Hammersmith and City Railway Co. v. Brand, L.R. 4 H.L. 171, 203; but see—per Lord Cairns, id. p. 217. Eastern Counties Rail. Co. v. Marriage, 9 H.L. Ca. 32. Union Steamship Co. of N.Z. v. Melbourne Harbour Trust, 9 App. Ca. 365.)

Sympathy: while construing a statute

While construing a statute, ‘sympathy’ has no role to play.

Supreme Court cannot interpret the provisions of the said Act ignoring the binding decisions of the Constitution Bench of this Court only by way of sympathy to the concerned workmen.

45. In A. Umarani vs. Registrar, Co-operative Societies and others (2004) 7 SCC 112, this Court rejected a similar contention upon noticing the following judgments :

“In a case of this nature this court should not even exercise its jurisdiction under Article 142 of the Constitution of India on misplaced sympathy.

In Teri Oat Estates (P) Ltd. vs. U.T., Chandigarh and others (2004) 2 SCC 130, it is stated;

“We have no doubt in our mind that sympathy or sentiment by itself cannot be a ground for passing an order in relation whereto the appellants miserably fail to establish a legal right. It is further trite that despite an extra-ordinary constitutional jurisdiction contained in Article 142 of the Constitution of India, this Court ordinarily would not pass an order, which would be in contravention of a statutory provision.

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State of West Bengal and Ors Vs Madan Mohan Ghosh and Ors-30/04/2002


Law points-Statutory Interpretation

  • a right conferred on Govt under a subordinate legislation cannot be curtailed by an executive order. This argument suffers from a basic fallacy.
  • the words used in the title of an enactment cannot be a conclusive fact to ascertain the legislative nature of such enactment.
  • Interpretation of Statutes—Non obstante clause—Has overriding effect only on rules which were in existence at time when said rule came into force—Cannot be construed so as to mean that all future rules and notifications will be subject to such a non obstante clause.

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INTERPRETATION- It is true that while interpreting a Tax Legislature the consequences and hardship are not looked into but the purpose and object by which taxing statutes have been enacted cannot be lost sight. This Court while considering the very same provision i.e. Section 143(1-A), its object and purpose and while upholding the provision held that the burden of proving that the assessee has attempted to evade tax is on the Revenue which may be discharged by the Revenue by establishing facts and circumstances from which a reasonable inference can be drawn that the assessee has, in fact, attempted to evade tax lawfully payable by it.

ACTS: Section 143(1)(a) of the Income Tax Act, 1961



CIVIL APPEAL NO.8590 of 2010






This appeal has been filed by the assessee challenging the Division Bench judgment dated 13.11.2007 of the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan at Jaipur Bench, Jaipur by which D.B. Civil Special Appeal (Writ) No.837 of 1993 filed by the Revenue has been allowed upholding the demand of additional tax under Section 143(1-A) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Brief facts necessary to be noted for deciding this appeal are:

The assessee is a Government Company as defined under Section 617 of the Companies Act, 1956. The assessee filed return on 30.12.1991 for the assessment year 1991-92 showing a loss amounting to Rs. (-)427,39,32,972/-. Due to a bonafide mistake the assessee claimed 100% depreciation of Rs. 333,77,70,317/- on written down value of assets instead of 75% depreciation. Under the unamended Section 32(2) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 the assessee was entitled to claim 100% depreciation. However, after the amendment the depreciation could only be 75%. The assessee supported the returns with provisional revenue account, balance sheet as on 31.03.1991, details of gross fixed assets, computation chart and depreciation chart. No tax was payable on the said return by the assessee. No notice under Section 143(2) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 was received by the assessee.

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A. N. Roy Commissioner of Police and ANOTHER Vs Suresh Sham Singh-04/07/2006

STATUTORY INTERPRETATION-It is now well settled principle of law that the Court cannot enlarge the scope of legislation or intention when the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous. Narrow and pedantic construction may not always be given effect to. Courts should avoid a construction, which would reduce the legislation to futility. It is also well settled that every statute is to be interpreted without any violence to its language. It is also trite that when an expression is capable of more than one meaning, the court would attempt to resolve the ambiguity in a manner consistent with the purpose of the provision, having regard to the great consequences of the alternative constructions.

AIR 2006 SC 2677 : (2006) 3 Suppl. SCR 165 : (2006) 5 SCC 745 : JT 2006 (6) SC 89 : (2006) 6 SCALE 446 : (2006) CriLJ SC 3614

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Govind Vs State of Madhya Pradesh and another-18/03/1975

State Interest: If the Court does find that a claimed right is entitled to protection as a fundamental privacy right, a law infringing it must satisfy the compelling State interest test. Then the question would be whether a State interest is of such paramount importance as would justify an infringement of the right.

Interpretation: When there are two interpretations, one wide and unconstitutional, the other narrower but within constitutional bounds, this Court will read down the overflowing expressions to make them valid




State of Madhya Pradesh and another

(Before: K. K. Mathew, V. R. Krishna Iyer And P. K. Goswami, JJ.)

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Ejus dem generis means

The expression ejus dem generis -’of the same kind or nature’ – signifies a principle of construction whereby words in a statute which are otherwise wide but are associated in the text with more limited words are, by implication, given a restricted operation and are limited to matters of the same class or genus as preceding them. If a list or string or family of genus-describing terms are followed by wider or residuary or sweeping – up words, then the verbal context and the linguistic implications of the preceding words limit the scope of such words.

In ‘Statutory Interpretation’ Rupert Cross says:

“……The draftsman must be taken to have inserted the general words in case something which ought to have been included among the specifically enumerated items had been omitted …….”

(page 116)

The principle underlying this approach to statutory construction is that the subsequent general words were only intended to guard against some accidental omission in the objects of the kind mentioned earlier and were not intended to extend to objects of a wholly different kind. This is a presumption and operates unless there is some contrary indication. But the preceding words or expressions of restricted meaning must be susceptible of the import that they represent a class. If no class can be found, ejusdem generis rule is not attracted and such broad construction as the subsequent words may admit will be favoured. As a learned author puts it:

“…………… if a class can be found, but the specific words exhaust the class, then rejection of the rule may be favoured because its adoption would make the general words unnecessary; if, however, the specific words do not exhaust the class, then adoption of the rule may be favoured because its rejection would make the specific words unnecessary.”

(See:Construction of Statutes by E. A. Driedger p. 95 quoted by Francis Bennion in his Statutory Construction pages 829 and 830).

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Elementary principle of interpretation

In Grasim Industries Ltd. v. Collector of Customs, Bombay, (2002) 4 SCC 297, this Court took the view:

10. No words or expressions used in any statute can be said to be redundant or superfluous. In matters of interpretation one should not concentrate too much on one word and pay too little attention to other words. No provision in the statute and no word in any section can be construed in isolation. Every provision and every word must be looked at generally and in the context in which it is used. It is said that every statute is an edict of the legislature. The elementary principle of interpreting any word while considering a statute is to gather the mens or sententia legis of the legislature. 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 the court to take upon itself the task of amending or alternating the statutory provisions. Wherever the language is clear the intention of the legislature is to be gathered from the language used. While doing so, what has been said in the statute as also what has not been said has to be noted. The construction which requires for its support addition or substitution of words or which results in rejection of words has to be avoided….

In Bhavnagar University v. Palitana Sugar Mill (P) Ltd., (2003) 2 SCC 111, this Court held:

24. True meaning of a provision of law has to be determined on the basis of what it provides by its clear language, with due regard to the scheme of law.

25. Scope of the legislation on the intention of the legislature cannot be enlarged when the language of the provision is plain and unambiguous. In other words statutory enactments must ordinarily be construed according to its plain meaning and no words shall be added, altered or modified unless it is plainly necessary to do so to prevent a provision from being unintelligible, absurd, unreasonable, unworkable or totally irreconcilable with the rest of the statute.

In the case of Harshad S. Mehta v. State of Maharashtra, (2001) 8 SCC 257, this Court opined:

34. There is no doubt that if the words are plain and simple and call for only one construction, that construction is to be adopted whatever be its effect….

19. In the case of Union of India v. Hansoli Devi, (2002) 7 SCC 273, this Court observed:

9…It is a cardinal principle of construction of a statute that when the language of the statute is plain and unambiguous, then the court must give effect to the words used in the statute and it would not be open to the courts to adopt a hypothetical construction on the ground that such construction is more consistent with the alleged object and policy of the Act….

20. In the case of Patangrao Kadam v. Prithviraj Sayajirao Yadav Deshmukh, (2001) 3 SCC 594, this Court took the view:

12. Thus when there is an ambiguity in terms of a provision, one must look at well-settled principles of construction but it is not open to first create an ambiguity which does not exist and then try to resolve the same by taking recourse to some general principle.

Deeming provision means

It is well known that a deeming provision is a legal fiction and an admission of the non-existence of the fact deemed. (See M/s. J.K. Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mills Ltd. and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors., AIR 1988 SC 191 at 202). Therefore, while interpreting a provision creating a legal fiction, the Court has to ascertain the purpose for which the fiction is created.

The law on this aspect has been very neatly summed-up by Lord Justice James in Ex Parte Walton, In re Levy (1881) 17 Ch. D. 746. At page 756 the learned Judge formulated as follows:

…When a statute enacts that something shall be deemed to have been done, which in fact and truth was not done, the Court is entitled and bound to ascertain for what purposes and between what persons the statutory fiction is to be resorted to….

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Repeal by implication

Presumption against a repeal by implication

There is presumption against a repeal by implication; and the reason of this rule is based on the theory that the Legislature while enacting a law has a complete knowledge of the existing laws on the same subject-matter, and therefore, when it does not provide a repealing provision, the intention is clear not to repeal the existing legislation. (See: Municipal Council, Palai through the Commissioner of Municipal Council, Palai vs. T. J. Joseph (AIR 1963 SC 1561), Northern India Caterers (Private) Ltd. and another vs. State of Punjab and another (AIR 1967 SC 1581), Municipal Corporation of Delhi vs. Shiv Shanker (1971) 1 SCC 442 and Ratan Lal Adukia and another vs. Union of India (AIR 1990 SC 104). When the new Act contains a repealing section mentioning the Acts which it expressly repeals, the presumption against implied repeal of other laws is further strenghtened on the principle expressio unius (persone vel rei) est exclusio alterius (The express intention of one person or thing is the exclusion of another), as illuminatingly stated in Garnett vs. Bradley, (1878) 3 AC 944 (HL). The continuance of existing legislation, in the absence of an express provision of repeal by implication lies on the party asserting the same. The presumption is, however, rebutted and a repeal is inferred by necessary implication when the provisions of the later Act are so inconsistent with or repugnant to the provisions of the earlier Act and that the two cannot stand together. But, if the two can be read together and some application can be made of the words in the earlier Act, a repeal will not be inferred. (See: A. G. vs. Moore (1878) 3 Ex D 276, Ratanlal’s case (supra) and R. S. Raghunath vs. State of Karnataka and another (AIR 1992 SC 81).

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