The Legal Lock



Kinds Of Legislation Interpretation Rules


The word interpretation has come from the latin word ‘interpretari’, meaning to explain, to profound, to understand and translate. In literal sense, interpretation means the explanation of meaning of something. Interpretation is different for everyone. In terms of law, interpretation is needed to find out the true sense of legislation and statues and what the legislator is actually trying to convey.

As per Salmond, “By interpreting or construction is meant the process by which court seeks to ascertain the meaning of legislation through the medium of authoritative forms, in which it is expressed.”

Interpretation of statutes is a process which is frequently adopted by the courts to comprehend the true meaning of any legislation. The reason for the courts to interpret legislation is that Courts are there not to just merely read a law but also to apply the meaningful laws to the cases and resolving them. There may be ambiguity in the legislation that must be remedied, and this may be accomplished by employing a variety of standards and theories of interpretation.[1]

The goal of interpretation is to explain the meaning of terms used in legislation that may not be obvious. The art of determining the genuine meaning of an enactment by giving the law’s terms their natural and customary meaning. It is the process of determining the genuine meaning of the words employed in legislation. The Court is not expected to interpret arbitrarily, and as a result, some principles have emerged through the Courts’ ongoing activity. These ideas are also referred to as ‘laws of interpretation.’

Thus, interpretation is a well-known and significant activity. The process of enacting legislation and the process of interpreting legislation are two different processes. As a result, interpreting legislation becomes a continual activity as new facts and situations emerge.


This age-old procedure of applying passed legislation has roots all across the world, wherever law exists. In both Australia and the United States, courts have repeatedly declared that the language of the legislation is utilised first, and it is interpreted as written, using the usual interpretation of the act’s wording.

Since Heydon’s Case[2] in 1854, interpretation of legislation has been an important component of English law. While it may appear complicated, the key rules employed in interpretation are simple to understand. Even from the earliest stages of Hindu civilization and culture, complex norms of interpretation were developed. The guidelines offered by ‘Jaimini,’ the author of the Mimamsat Sutras, which were originally intended for srutis, were also used to interpret Smritis.

Interpretation of legislation has its roots in England. A statute (or code) directs the magistrate in Roman and civil law, but there is no judicial precedent. In England, Parliament has traditionally failed to adopt a comprehensive code of legislation. That is why the common law has been left to the courts to evolve. Once a case has been resolved and grounds for the judgement have been stated, the ruling becomes obligatory on subsequent courts.

As a result, a specific reading of legislation would become enforceable, necessitating the establishment of a standard framework for legislative interpretation. The court’s primary goal in interpreting legislation must be to carry out the “Intention of Parliament.” When there is conflict between precedent and statute, statue dominates over precedent or case law. The most common understanding of a judge’s rightful role in the interpretation of legislation is that of “legislative supremacy.”[3]


The legal system has developed in all countries to guarantee that justice is available to all. It is critical, if not essential, that the courts interpret the law in a way that maximises ‘access to justice.’ Court can only interpret law and cannot make the law.

The function of legislature ends as soon as the statue is formed, with respect to that statute and hence, it cannot interpret itself. Courts are needed here to interpret what the legislature is trying to say and what rule it is imposing with that particular statute or legislation.

The court was asked if a railway worker who was responsible for oiling and cleaning the tracks was also responsible for fixing them. The court, on the other hand, responded in the negative, with Lord Jowitt stating that there is no specific moment at which maintenance ceases and repair begins.

Despite these difficulties, courts do not attempt to draw a boundary and instead rely on broad working principles to determine if a situation falls within the scope of the applicable statute.

This is vital to avoid the focus shifting away from the statute’s wording and onto the designating test. In a court of law, the legislature’s aim can be deduced from what is either directly stated in the statute or by reasonable and necessary inference. However, the required implication cannot be decided without taking into account the statute’s objective or intent, since this would render the law ineffective.


A rule is something which acts as guidelines for actions to be conducted in a certain way. These rules maintain discipline and are to put things in order to manage easily. It’s important to remember that these are rules of practice rather than rules of law. Without these guidelines, it would be difficult to not only comprehend the law, but also to implement it.


In the case of grammatical interpretation, the court is bound to consider only the verbal expression of law. It is not allowed to go beyond the verbal meaning of legislation. The judges do not have liberty to modify or change any letter, word or sentence of the statute.

The duty of the court is to interpret the words ignoring the consequences of that law. The most important stage in the process of interpretation is to look at the statute’s wording and literal meaning. The words in an enactment have their own inherent impact. The architecture of an act is determined by how they are phrased.

According to the literal rule, if the definition of a statute is absent, words should be given literal meaning. The literal rule is what is said by law not what is meant by law. The grammatical rule is understandable if the following criteria are met:

  1. A term’s unique meaning may be provided by statute, which is normally found in the interpretation section.
  2. If the statute does not specify, then the technical words should be given ordinary technical meaning.
  3. By inference, no words will be added.
  4. In the course of time, the meaning of words changes.
  5. It’s important to remember that the meaning of words is determined by their context.

Case laws for Literal Rule

In C. Rajangopalachari v. State of Madras[8], The Supreme Court ruled that “a tax on pension receipts is not a tax on employment under Entry 60 of List II of the Constitution’s Seventh Schedule, and thus is not within the State’s legislative competence, but is within the Union’s legislative competence under the head tax on income in Entry 82 of List I.” The court interpreted the meaning of the word pensioner and said that neither being a “pensioner” can be interpreted a “profession, trade, business or calling”, nor could a tax on a person because the person is in receipt of a pension be said to be a tax on “employments”.

In the case of Ranjit Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra[9], the appellant was convicted under Section 292 of IPC for the sale of a book titled, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. The book was considered to be obscene and for the same reason, government banned this book. The appellant argued that to book anyone under criminal law, the mens rea i.e. criminal intention or guilty mind should be proved.

In this case, it was not proved and henceforth, conviction was not justified. The Supreme Court ruled that awareness of obscenity was not a necessary ingredient of the crime under Indian Penal Code Section 292. The court must assign natural meaning to the language employed in the provision. The court used the literal rule to reach a conclusion. It was clearly stated that words of the provision should be interpreted as they mean in normal sense and not as per the consequence of law.

 Rationale for this rule

The grammatical rule’s proponents argue that it prohibits courts from taking sides in legislative or political disputes. They also point out that ordinary people and attorneys do not have access to a wide range of secondary sources. The norm is preferred in probate law since the testator is rarely present to determine what reading of a will is acceptable. As a result, extrinsic evidence should not be permitted to change the testator’s words or their meaning. It is maintained. It can assist to ensure that interpretations are consistent. Supremacy of parliament is respected and separation of power is upheld.

Criticism of this rule

It is claimed by opponents that literal rule assumes that a word has fixed meaning. The fact that a word can have different meaning in different sense is not considered. For example the word bark, if it is used with dog it means the sound of dog. While when it is used with the word tree it means the wooden layer of tree. In reality, language is ambiguous, prompting judges to use their own views to interpret statutes. Grammatical rule therefore, on the other hand, endures because there isn’t much more to give as a discretion-constricting explanation.

This is the problem with literal rule. The Grammatical Rule has the potential to cause injustice. A rail worker was murdered while oiling a track in the London and North Eastern Railway v Berriman[12] case. Workers who die while ‘replacing or relaying’ track are entitled to compensation under the law. Oiling was not covered by the Act, hence no compensation was paid. This might erode public trust in the legal system.

Another defect was pointed out by Salmond. The defect of inconsistency. Different parts of the legislation can be inconsistent with one another and would not reach a conclusion. This will also nullify the whole law. Thus, it is the duty of the court to interpret and find out the true meaning of the legislation.

Another logical criticism literal interpretation has is of incomplete law in itself. The law might be incomplete in itself and the true and whole meaning of the law cannot be brought out. This can be done with logical interpretation and not grammatical interpretation. The omission must be as such to make law logically incomplete. If the law is logically complete, the court has the duty to only apply the letter of law.


It’s a type of statutory interpretation in which a court might deviate from a word’s conventional meaning to prevent an absurd conclusion. Golden rule can said to be as a compromise between grammatical rule and mischief rule.

The golden rule can be used in either narrow sense or wide sense. T Narrow sense is used when only the words are ambiguous and absurd. Consider a sign that says, “Do not use lifts in the event of a fire.” People should never use the elevators if there is a fire, according to the literal meaning of this warning. However, this would be an illogical consequence, because the sign’s goal is clearly to restrict anyone from using the elevators unless there is already a fire nearby. This is the golden rule interpretation in narrow sense.

The wider sense is used when the meaning of the legislation is interpreting as obnoxious and against the public policy. For example, if we take case in which a son killed his mother and then killed himself. The courts had to decide whether the estate should go to the mother’s family or the son’s descendants.

This rule implies that the implications and effects of interpretation are far more essential than the words themselves. When implementing this rule, the interpretation may be completely contrary to the original rule, yet it will be justified due to the golden rule. The assumption is that certain goals were not intended by the legislator. As a result, any interpretation that leads to unexpected consequences will be rejected.

The conflicting clauses must be construed in a way that harmonises them. One provision should not destroy another provision or make another provision meaningless and useless. Each provision carries away its own value and it should not be diminished.

Case Laws for golden rule

The Supreme Court of India emphasized on the role of beneficent interpretation of legislation in the case of Additional Commissioner of Income Tax v. Surat Art Silk Cloth Manufactures’ Association[14]. It was held that interpretation which gives meaning and effect to the legislation is definitely to be preferred. During the judgment, Supreme Court observed, “If there is one rule of interpretation more settled than another, it is that if the language of a statutory provision is ambiguous and capable of two interpretations, that interpretation should be adopter which will give meaning and effect to the legislation rather than the one that will give none”.

Another example can be taken of the case of State of Punjab v. Quiser Jehan Begum.[17] Under section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1844, an appeal for the notification of the award must be submitted within 6 months following the announcement of the compensation. In the honour of Quiser Jehan, an award was presented. Her attorney informed her of this after a six-month period of time had passed.

The appeal was submitted after time had expired. Lower courts dismissed the appeal. The court decided that six months should be calculated from the moment Quiser acquired awareness of situation since interpretation was unreasonable. The appeal was permitted when the court used the golden rule.

Apart from everything, penalty legislations must always be interpreted strictly. If an Act creates a legislation which also states the penalty for the offence, it should be interpreted carefully. If there are two possible and meaningful interpretations, court should go with the one which exempts from penalty and punishment rather than the one which proceeds towards penalty and punishment for the offence.

Criticism of golden rule

Main criticism that golden rule of interpretation gets is that the scope for the courts to interpret is very limited. As the literal rule says that interpretation should be verbal, golden rule also gives priority to the literal and natural meaning of the legislation and it leaves very little freedom for the judges to analyse the legislation.

Judges will only be authorised to change the natural sense of the statute if the literal meaning causes some form of absurdity or repugnancy. Absurdity is a phrase that is as unclear as any law provision’s plain meaning.

Golden rule leaves it to discretionary political and social beliefs of the judges to use the golden rule as for golden rule to be applicable, important condition necessary is that the statute must be undefined, vague and ambiguous and it makes the applicability of golden rule to be completely subjective. The whole application of the rule hinges on the judge’s interpretation of the term absurdity.

However, because an infinite scope of judicial involvement would disrupt the legal framework’s equilibrium, the judge’s ability to depart from the plain and natural meaning of a proviso must be limited. In order to correctly interpret the legislation with respect to a specific instance, the legislative intent and object of passage must take precedence.

The fact that judges can potentially modify the law by changing the interpretation of words in legislation is a fundamental drawback of The Golden Rule. They can, perhaps infringe on the legal-legislative division of powers.

In today’s settings, the Golden Rule is applied as a tool by the court to accomplish the desired results.


Along with grammatical and golden rule, mischief rule is also made to interpret the true intention of the legislation. When the true intent of the legislation cannot be determined by literal or golden rule the court may consider the underlying background history of the legislation. The court can look into the facts that led to the formation of the bill and also the situations in which the bill became the law.

Mischief rule is to solve the mischief in the legislation. The court may look into the law before the act and determine the mischief in the law itself. Prevention of misuse of the legislation is the main purpose of mischief rule of interpretation. The act should be interpreted in such a way that mischief is reduced and remedy is enhanced. Mischief rule has its origin from Heydon’s case[19] in United Kingdom. In this case four points were laid out to be followed:

 Pro- private commando and pro-bona public are the two main formulas related to mischief. Both of these formulas imply that the courts should interpret the legislation in a way that suppresses the wrongdoing while encouraging the remedy. Simultaneously, more mischief may be avoided by learning the legislature’s intentions. It should be supported in such a way that the legislature’s goal is realised.

Case laws of Mischief Rule

The Apex Court decided in CIT vs. Sundaradevi[20] that if there is no ambiguity, it is not available to the Court to break from the customary rule of interpretation, which is that the legislature’s purpose should be principally gleaned from the words employed. Only when the words used are confusing can they be scrutinised and analysed in light of the surrounding circumstances and legally mandated activities.

In the case of Pyare Lal v. Ram Chandra[21], the defendant in this case was charged with selling sweetened supari that had been sweetened with an artificial sweetener. He was charged under the Food Adulteration Act. Pyare Lal claimed that supari cannot be considered as food item. The court decided that dictionary definitions are not always exact, thus the mischief rule must be used, and the interpretation that best promotes the remedy must be considered. As a result, the court determined that the term “food” can be consumed by mouth and orally. As a result, his prosecution was found to be legal.

In the case of Regional Provident Fund Commissioner v. Shree Krishna Metal Manufacturing Company[26] the respondent firm, which included four distinct units for producing brass and copper sheets and tools for milling rice, a flour mill, and a sawmill, was ordered to comply with the Employees Provident Fund Act: 1952.

However, the respondent refused the Act since he did not employ more than fifty people in each of the four units, therefore the Act’s restrictions did not apply to him. The Supreme Court, however, dismissed the claim, stating that the qualifier “factory” and not “industry” was used in the term. The act’s aim would be defeated if it was not classified as a factory. As a result, the mischief must be stopped.

Criticism of the mischief rule

Mischief rule has the following criticism or disadvantages:

  1. It has been in use since the 16th century, when common law was the major source of law and parliamentary supremacy had not yet been established. Due to this, this law is considered to be outdated.
  2. Judiciary is not elected member of the parliament. The role of judiciary exceeds its limits. It is contended that it gives the unelected court too much authority, which is undemocratic.
  3. Because the judges frequently drafted acts on behalf of the monarch in the 16th century, they were well-versed in the ills that the act was intended to address. But this is not the case now. Acts are drafted by Parliament who has expertise in the matter. Judges are required to only interpret the law and not make the law.
  4. Court cannot know what the intent of the parliament is. It is only the Parliament which knows keeping what intentions in mind they have made the law. It can be contended that parliament is in true power to clarify what it has said.
  5. Separation of powers is infringed as the court with the mischief rule upon their discretion can interpret the law according to them.
  6. The certainty of law is not there. Different judges might have different point of views for the same legislation. Judges might bring their own morality, preconceptions, and perspectives to a case.
  7. It gives the power to Judge to interpret according to his choice which might hinder the course of proceedings.


Logical interpretation necessitates a comparison of the legislation to other statutes and the entire system of law, as well as further evaluation of the statute’s meaning and circumstances. Unfortunately, if a monument is to escape a gloomy counsel, it must be one of disclosure rather than concealment. Judges are continually reminded of the weakness of human language in the duty of liberal or grammatical interpretation, much to their unfeigned displeasure. The statue’s style has changed dramatically over time.

 The logical technique takes into account historical facts as well as societal demands. The court must assess the circumstances under which the legislation was enacted as well as the harm that it was meant to prevent. In the event of logical interpretation, it is the responsibility of the courts to evaluate the purpose of the act as well as the demands of society.

That interpretation should be used to further the cause of justice. The importance of both grammatical and logical readings cannot be overstated. They’ve been compared to the two steps needed to stroll down the street. It is impossible to interpret statutes to code without the assistance of both of them.

Case laws of Logical Rule

In N. Shaedamani v. G. Alexander[27], Andhra Pradesh High Court observed that while interpreting legislations the situations and circumstances should also be considered in which they were framed.

In S.S. Bhola v. B.D. Sardana[28], Supreme Court defined logical interpretation as – The legislature’s intent can be determined by looking at the objects, reasons, assertions, and other provisions in legislation.

Use of logical interpretation

First use is in case of different meanings of same word. Sometimes in legislation, such terminology is utilised that is not only taught but also has several meanings. In such a case, courts must conduct a thorough examination to determine the legislature’s intent and determine the meaning of terms appropriately.’

The court can use a variety of rules, formulae, and interpretive principles to assist it do so. In the case of Priyvarth Mehta v. Amrender Banerjee[29], Supreme Court held that when a word has different meanings that meaning should be adopted which gave the best sense of the legislation.

Second is inconsistency. In logical interpretation, legislation leads to more than one meaning, unclear view, and ambiguity as it was seen in the case of Jagdish Singh v. L.L. Governer Delhi[30].

Third is in case of unclarity. At times, there is confusion between meanings of the words like ‘or’, ‘all’, ‘etc’. In such cases court should take into consideration background of the law. In Dr. B.N. Gupta Charitable Trust v. Delhi Development Authority[31], Delhi High Court observed that words like ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘all’ should be interpreted logically to know the true intent of the legislation.


Every country has its own legal system, with the goal of providing equal justice to all citizens. The court’s goal is to interpret the law in such a way that every person receives equal justice. The notion of canons of interpretation was introduced to ensure that everyone was treated fairly. These are the rules that have emerged to determine the legislature’s true purpose.

It is not always required for the language used in a legislation to be clear, plain, and unambiguous. In such circumstances, it is critical for courts to identify a clear and explicit interpretation of the words or phrases used by the legislature while also removing any questions that may exist. Hence, there exist rules of interpretation which should be followed by courts to interpret the legislation and make clear sense of it in a reasonable manner.

Literal interpretation is the most common interpretation rule followed by golden rule, mischief rule and logical rule of interpretation. It is evident from above discussions that role of judiciary is to just interpret what the legislature says and to find true intention of it. It is not the duty of judiciary to make sense out of the legislation. They can only interpret law and not make it. Separation of power is necessary, which is also the reason for not giving judiciary power to make law or change the meaning of the law. They have to find what the best possible meaning of the legislation is.