Rules of Interpretation of Statutes

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Rules of Interpretation of Statute and their Importance


The Parliament makes laws and these laws are further interpreted by Judges using the maxims of statutory interpretation. Draftsmen try their best to ensure that the meaning of law is clear and unambiguous however there are certain words with uncertain meanings. We all know that man is fallible and sometimes even the parliament makes an error, in such a case it is up to the Judges to correctly interpret the written letter of the law. Since the courts cannot arbitrarily interpret the ambiguous words, to determining the true intent of the draftsmen, certain principles of Interpretation are used.

Rules of Interpretation

Rules of Interpretation are principles that have evolved over the years, on account of interpretation of provisions of law by various Courts.

  • These rules help in interpretation of law.
  • The object behind use of these rules is to ascertain the intention of the lawmakers.
  • These rules are not static and keep on evolving.
  • At times, there may be more than one rule of interpretation which appear to applicable to a given situation.
  • The Courts then decide the most appropriate one in the given situation considering the facts of the case.

Primary rules include :- The Literal Rule, Mischief Rule : Heydon’s Rule, Golden Rule , Harmonious Construction, Rule of beneficial construction, Rule of exceptional construction

Secondary rules include :-Noscitur a sociis, Ejusdem Generis, Reddendo Singula Singulis

Importance of interpretation of statutes

Interpretation of statutes is necessary for the following three reasons:

  1. The complexity of Statutes: As mentioned earlier, laws are enacted by individuals who are experts in their particular fields and as a result, the provisions might be complex for a layman to understand. Hence, interpretation is deemed necessary.
  2. Legislative Intent: Sometimes, due to the complex nature of the statute, the legislative intent might be lost and in order to understand the intent of the legislature, it is important to interpret the statutes.
  3. Multifaceted Nature of Language: The problem with the English language is that the same word might have different meanings in different contexts. For example, the word “PLAY” has different meanings in different contexts – “Have you watched the play XYZ?” or “Are the kids playing?” Both the words are the same, however, their meaning is different in both the sentences.

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