Statute Interpretation
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This article is written by Karunashankar K.N. a 2nd-year law student from School of Law Christ University, Bengaluru. 


The word ‘Interpretation’ is derived from the Latin term ‘interpretari’ which means to explain or expound or to understand or translate. Interpretation is a process through which one arrives at the true and correct intention of the law-making body which is laid in the form of statutes. This helps in finding out the intention of the author.

Interpretation of any data generally means to analyze the available data and come out with an opinion which is certain and clear. This increases the ability of an individual to understand and explain it in his/her own way. This helps to find out the ways to understand and analyse the statute, where it leads the interpreter to the whole new meaning which is completely different from the general meaning.

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It is necessary for all law students, lawyers, judges and anyone who belongs to the legal fraternity to know how to interpret the statute whenever a legislative house comes up with the new statute or an amendment because they will be dealing with these legislations on day to day basis. The main intention of analyzing is to know the new changes which are being brought due to the legislation and the impacts of that legislation in society.

Usually, the interpretation of the statute is done by the judges, it is the primary function of the judge as a judicial head. As we all know that our government is divided into three important wings which are: Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Here legislature lays down the law and intends people to act according to the legislature and the judiciary that is judges will come up with the proper meaning of the law and puts the law into operation. This helps in maintaining checks and balances between the wings.

Need for interpretation

  1. The ambiguity of the words used in the statute: Sometimes there will be words that have more than one meaning. And it may not be clear which meaning has to be used. There could be multiple interpretations made out of it. 
  2. Change in the environment: We all know that society changes from time to time and there may be new developments happening in a society that is not taken into consideration, this lacks the predictability of the future event.
  3. Complexities of the statutes: usually statutes are complex and huge, it contains complicated words, jargon and some technical terms which are not easy to understand and this complexity may lead to confusion.
  4. When legislation doesn’t cover a specific area: Every time when legislations are out it doesn’t cover all the area it leaves some grey areas and interpretation helps in bridging the gaps between.
  5. Drafting error: The draft may be made without sufficient knowledge of the subject. It may also happen due to the lack of necessary words and correct grammar. This makes the draft unclear and creates ambiguity in the legislature.
  6. Incomplete rules: There are few implied rules and regulations and some implied powers and privileges which are not mentioned in the statute and when these are not defined properly in the statute this leads to ambiguity.

Rules of interpretation of statutes


Strict Interpretation

Strict interpretation means each word in the statute should be interpreted by the letter and not with respect to the spirit behind the statute. A judge has to apply the text only as it is written in the statute when there is clear meaning of the text there will be no scope for any further investigation regarding the same. Here in strict interpretation, the courts will use the literal rule of interpretation.

This method is important because judges will not make any wrong inferences from statutes and will not go out from the letter of the law and the judgment will be purely based on the text of the statute. This upholds the rule of law by giving importance to the legislature that passes the laws.

If we take the example when we are dealing with the taxation provisions we can not vary from the letter of law as it is universally applicable to all the people in the nation. It is applied as per the text in order to fix the standard in society and clear all the uncertainties which may arise in the near future.

State of Jharkhand v. Ambay Cements, 2005

In this case, it was held that the provisions of the law should be strictly constructed, it should not be let open for the court to interpret, the court cannot ignore the conditions prescribed in the provision. Wherever there is a mandatory rule it must be strictly followed, when a statute explicitly mentions the performance of a particular act in a specific way and lays down the consequences to it, that should be mandatorily followed. Cardinal rule of interpretation is that when a particular act should be done in a prescribed manner the courts cannot interpret that in any way of performance.[1]

Liberal Interpretation 

Liberal or beneficial interpretation means the interpretation of the statute should be made liberally in order to get a wider and enhanced meaning to it. Here judges have all the powers and authority to interpret the laws according to the case requirements and in this rule, there will be no compulsion to follow only the letter of the law, they can go beyond the meaning of the text and interpret. The courts will use the golden rule of interpretation or the Mischief rule of interpretation.

In this method, the judge does not restrict themselves to the literal meaning of the law but they will give all the opportunity to the lawyers to enlighten them with the different interpretations of the law. They will try looking at the law from the other perspective, by which many of the modern-day problems would be solved. As it is an exhaustive rule of interpretation it gives a wider scope of expanding the law and helps in creating a new law if required.

If we take the example of the ‘CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT’, the main aim of that act is to protect the interest of the people. All the laws are established for the public interest it cannot be looked in a narrow way by restricting it into the letter of law.

Madan Singh v. UOI, 1999

In this case, it was held that it is the duty of the court to interpret the provisions of the law, as every case will not be having the same situation, and the court should interpret especially when there are beneficial provisions related to the parties. The interpretation as to be made in the liberal sense so as to get a wider meaning and understanding of the word rather than restricting the meaning which would probably negate the whole case. And this would destroy the complete purpose of the law which is to protect the public interest. [2]

Literal Rule 

The literal rule basically looks into what the law says, not what the law means. It considers the original meaning of the word. Here judges cannot come up with the words and interpret according to the case basis. When the language used is simple and the words have only one meaning to it at that time judges will use this literal rule of interpretation.

When there are no two meanings to a word. This rule helps courts from taking sides in legislative or political issues. If any word in the statute has a special meaning to it, usually it will be mentioned in the interpretation clause, all technical words are given ordinary meaning if the statute has not specified it. Usage of the appropriate words is very important and makes a lot of difference in the meaning of the context.

Courts should never go beyond the intention of the legislators. When the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous, then there is no need of explaining that in the natural or ordinary sense.
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R v. Harriss, 1836

The defendant bit off the victim’s nose. The statute says it is offence ‘to stab cut or wound’ a person. Here the court applied the literal rule, the act of biting did not come within the meaning of stab cut or wound as these words implied an instrument had to be used. Therefore the defendant’s conviction was quashed.[3]

Fisher v. Bell, 1960

Under the ‘offensive weapons act of 1959’, it is an offence to offer certain offensive weapons for sale. Bristol shopkeeper, James Bell displayed a flick knife in his shop window. When brought to trial it was concluded that Bell could not be convicted given the literal meaning of the statute. The law of contract states that having an item in a window is not the intention of sale but is an invitation to treat. Given the literal meaning of this statute, Bell could not be convicted.

Pritipal Singh V. Union Of India

There was the criminal case was against the defendant, the charge sheet was filed as per the violations and provisions under the ‘Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, 1985’ and the interpretation of words was in question. The court emphasized the literal rule of interpretation. 

It was held that there is a presumption that the words which are used in the statutes are correct and exact and it is inappropriately made.[4]


  • Judges started giving more importance to the literal meaning of the statutory provisions without considering the wider meaning of the context.
  • This method ignores the limitations of the language.
  • Words undergo changes in their meaning as time passes.
  • Basing it on a wrong assumption that a word has only one fixed meaning.
  • Lack of clarity in the statute.
  • This leads us to prejudices and determines the meaning of the statute. 

Reasonable Construction 

Reasonable construction follows the principle of ‘Ut Res Magis Valeat Quam Pareat’ which means when the interpretation of the statute is made it should be done in a meaningful and sensible manner. If a statute is having a two interpretation where one is completely vague and absurd and other is perfectly making sense then that meaningful interpretation should be used.

A provision of law cannot be so interpreted where it is made without using common sense. Every word or expression used in an act should receive its natural and fair meaning which was made in accordance with the legislator.

Tirath Singh v. Bachittar Singh

It is only when the language of a statute, in its ordinary meaning and grammatical construction, leads to a manifest contradiction of the apparent purpose of the enactment, or to some inconvenience or absurdity, hardship of injustice, presumably not intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words and even the structure of the sentence.[5]

Kanwar Singh v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1965

Courts can depart from the dictionary meaning of a word and give it a meaning which will advance the remedy and suppress the mischief provided the Court does not have to conjecture or surmise. Construction will be adopted in accordance with the policy and object of the statute.[6]

Golden Rule

The Golden rule is also called as British rule of interpretation, it is a form of statutory interpretation which allows a judge to depart from a normal meaning of the word in order to avoid an absurd result. As we know applying the bare letter of law sometimes may lead us to confusion and gives us an absurd result, in order to overcome these kinds of results judges will give an opportunity to the lawyer to come up with the new interpretation to the law which will be more certain and accurate to the case.

This method of interpretation is also known as the compromise method between literal rule and the mischief rule. In the literal rule, judges will only use the word meaning nothing else, but sometimes this may be irrational and gives us unexpected results which will be unlikely to the legislator’s intention.

In the case of homographs, where a word can have more than one meaning, the judge can choose the meaning which is suitable at that particular case if the word only has only one meaning, but applying that would lead to a bad decision where the judge can apply that decision and arrive at a completely different meaning.

This rule is used in two main situations:

  1. When the meaning of the word is too narrow.
  2. When the word itself has ambiguity or absurdity.

For example: 

  1. Whenever you stand near the lift it will be written that ‘’Do not use lifts in case of fire.’’ if you consider it in a literal meaning you should never use the lifts, this would be an absurd result because the intention of the person who put the sign is to prevent using of lift when there is live fire burning anywhere near the lift.
  2. When a son murdered his mother and committed suicide, now the court has to decide who will inherit the property is its mother’s family or the son’s descendants. The judgment came out in favour of the mother’s family, here what we have observed here is son never had the intention of making a profit by his crime, but now this judgment will be binding on all the lower courts.

R v. Allen, 1872

The defendant was charged with an offence of bigamy under section 57 of ‘offence against person act 1861’. The statutes states “whomsoever being married shall marry any other person during the lifetime of husband and wife is guilty of an offence.”

Under the literal rule of interpretation of this section, the offence would be impossible to commit since the civil law will not recognize a second marriage as an attempt to marry in such circumstances would not be recognized as a valid marriage.

Court applied the golden rule and held that the word marriage should be interpreted as ‘to go through a marriage ceremony.’ The defendant was convicted and held guilty.[7]

Adler v George case, 1964

Under section 3 of the ‘official secrets act,1920’ it was an offence to obstruct HM Forces in the vicinity of a prohibited area. Adler was arrested for obstructing forces whilst in a prohibited area. Under The Literal Rule, Adler was not in the vicinity of the area, he was in the area and so was not infringing the terms of the act. The Golden Rule was applied to extend the meaning of ‘vicinity’ and avoid the possible absurd outcome.

Uttar Pradesh Bhoodan Yagna Samiti v. Brij Kishore

The Supreme Court held that the expression “landless person” used in Section 14 of the ‘U.P. Bhoodan Yagna Act, 1953,’ which made provision for grant of land to landless persons, was limited to “landless labourers”. Landless labour is he who is engaged in agriculture but having no agricultural land.

The Court further said that “any landless person” did not include a landless businessman residing in a city. The object of the Act was to implement the Bhoodan movement, which aimed at the distribution of land to landless labourers who were verged in agriculture. A businessman, though landless cannot claim the benefit of Act.[8]


  • This infringes the separation of power among the wings of the government that is between judiciary and legislature.
  • Here judges can technically change the law by changing the meaning of the words in the statute.
  • This method can be used only when there is an absurdity in the statute.

Mischief Rule 

The mischief rule is a kind of statutory interpretation where it attempts to determine the intention of the legislators. It basically originated in the 16th century by the Heydon’s case in the united kingdom, the main objective of this is to find out the mischief and defect of the previous statute which was in question and how the new statute will come up with the remedy that resolves the defect. 

The main purpose of bringing the amendments in the statute is to add on additional areas or to make certain changes in the existing law and make it wider where it covers many other circumstances. Legislating a new law is to resolve the problem which was unable to resolve through the other laws which were existing before. And this also helps in finding out the answers to those questions which were not answered in the previous law. So here we can observe the retrospective effect in the process of making laws.

This rule is also called as purposive construction as there is a purpose behind making this ruling. Here court attempts to know the intention of the legislators for bringing in the change in the law. It also tries to analyze the mischief and the defect which was present in the previous law which leads to the creation of the new law.

Heydon’s Case 

This case helps us to know the 4 important points which we have to keep in mind while statute interpretation.

  1. What was the common law before the making of the act?
  2. What was the mischief or defect which the common law did not provide?
  3. What remedy the Parliament had resolved by appointing to cure the disease of the commonwealth?
  4. What is the true reason behind the remedy?[9]

Thomas v. Lord Clan Morris

Here it was stated that interpretation of any statutory enactment should not only restrict them to the interpretation of words and phrases used, but they should also look at the history of the act and the reasons behind passing such acts.

Bengal immunity co. V. State of Bihar, 1955

In this case, they have applied the mischief rule in the construction of Article 286 of the constitution of India. Article 286 was in question because before the implementation of this section every state had its own powers and privileges to make its own laws regarding taxation. But the supreme court said that article 286 is made in order to regulate the interstate taxation system and to maintain a well-organized taxation system. And make the whole of India as one economic unit.

Here Supreme Court has looked into the history of article 286 and also the reasoning behind it by considering both of it they have interpreted the statute by mischief rule.[10]

Elliot V. Grey, 1960

According to the Road Traffic Act of 1930 uninsured cars are not allowed to be driven or parked on the road. The defendant’s car was parked on the road near the public place but he was not using it.

The defendant was held guilty because the parliament has passed a bill which states that people should insure their car only then they can drive the car. 

The mischief rule was applied by the court by stating that the car being used in the road if in case the car causes an accident, insurance would be required. The reason behind this was that people should be compensated when they are injured by such incidents and danger caused to them by others.


  • Law commission finds mischief rule more efficient as it opposed to Literal and Golden rule.
  • It avoids unjust and absurd results in sentencing.


  • It is considered as an outdated rule as it came into the picture in the 16th century.
  • Gives excess power to the judiciary who are unelected and it is considered undemocratic.
  • This makes the law uncertain.
  • In the 16th century, the kings used to give judiciary complete power to draft laws so at that time they were well qualified about the mischief acts.

Harmonious Construction 

This rule of interpretation is adopted when there is a conflict between two or more statutes or between two provisions of the same statute. Every law has a certain purpose set, so judges should take those purposes into consideration and it should be read as a whole while interpreting. Judges should apply such provisions which are in accordance with the public interest. The laws which are applied must be consistent and shouldn’t overlap with other existing laws. The courts should avoid using such laws which bring ambiguity to the subject and makes courts inconsistent.

Sometimes it’s impossible to harmonise between two provisions of the statute at that time the decision of the judges will prevail above everything. When there is “a head-on clash” between the provisions of law the judges should bring harmony and make justice to both the parties.

Supreme Court explained harmonious rule as to when the two provisions of the same legislation are inconsistent with each other, both the provisions must be interpreted in such a way where it gives equal importance to others. Here one provision will not override on other provision, it aims at harmonizing between conflicting provisions and avoids destruction one provision.

Supreme Court has laid down five principles of rule of Harmonious Construction in the landmark case of CIT v. Hindustan Bulk Carriers:
  1. The courts should avoid such provisions which are contradicting in nature and which brings the head-on clash between each other. 
  2. The courts should interpret in such a way that brings harmony to the contradicting provisions.
  3. The provision of one section cannot defeat the other provision.
  4. When the court fails to bring harmony to both parties, it should at least interpret in such a manner where both the provisions are given effect as much as possible.
  5. Courts should keep in mind that the interpretation which reduces one provision to the dead is not harmonious, here harmonising doesn’t mean destroying.[11]

Ejusdem Generis 

Ejusdem Generis means of the same kind. Generally, the words should be given their natural meaning, unless it requires special meaning based on that context. When general words follow specific words that are distinct in nature, the general words should also be given the specific meaning to it.

The courts will interpret such general words follow specific words in a restricted way. It will be based on the facts and circumstances of the case which may change case to case. The legislative intent on principle of Ejusdem Generis is if the general words to be used in the restricted sense that means those words will be having a special meaning to it or else why would they even use specific words.

For example in an act dealing with the slaughter of animals for food for human consumption, the expressions used are “cows, goats, sheep, and other animals”.

 Whether the following animals are cover:

  1. Cats and dogs 
  2. Poultry
  3. Wild animals
  4. Horseflesh

Regina v. Edmundson, 1859

It was stated by Lord Campbell “Where there were general words following particular and specific words, the general words must be confined to things of the same kind as those specified.” by applying this it helps judges to restrict the wide ambit of the general expression.

In this case, it gave us the basic requirements which should be present in the case in order to apply ejusdem generis:

  1. The statue should contain an enumeration of specific words.
  2. The general term should follow the specific term.
  3. There should be no different intent of the legislature to the general terms.
  4. The series of the enumeration should constitute a class or category.
  5. The class or category should not be exhausted by the enumeration of specific words.

Beneficial Construction 

The general rule of the statute is that if a word used in the statute excludes certain cases in its common meaning, it should not be forced unnecessarily to include those cases. An exception to this rule is that when the main objective of the statute is not achieved by excluding those cases then the word may be interpreted on the basis of the case requires. 

This rule of interpretation will benefit individuals. Whenever there is an ambiguity or when the which would take the benefit away from the individual, so the meaning which prevails over the benefit to the individuals should be adopted. 

The courts should be generous towards the persons to whom benefits are conferred by the statute. Here it involves the judges to give the widest meaning to the statute in order to protect the interest of the parties, if you look into certain statutes the main purpose is to benefit and protect the interest of the person, for example, Industrial Disputes Act, Consumer Protection Act, Juvenile Justice Act and all labour-related laws. Provision is capable of giving two meanings where one would preserve the benefit and another.

Hindustan Level Ltd v Ashok Vishnu Kate

In this case, the court held that in a case which is related to the prevention of unfair labour practices it should be made completely in accordance with the labour point of view as they are benefitting people here and while interpreting Social Welfare Legislation also they should consider the benefitting people of the society.[12]

Noor Saba Khatoon v. Mohammad Quasium

The supreme court held that the rights of maintenance of children below two years old and the mother under Section 125 of the code of civil procedure 1973 are independent of each other and any other and subsequent legislature regarding maintenance of children below two year and mother that maybe Muslim women (Protection of rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 could not affect the same in absence of clear provision to the effect.[13]

Purposive Construction 

It is the modern version of mischief rule. It is actually more flexible compared to literal rule and golden rule which tends to concentrate more on the meaning of individual words or phrases. This looks for the purpose of the law. This rule allows judges to add or ignore any of the words in the statute while interpreting in order to protect the purpose of creating that law and give fair and equal justice to everyone. 

This rule is always compared with the mischief rule. As mischief rule looks into the gap between the old and new law and how parliament came up with the new law and what are the new remedies brought out to resolve the problems which were exiting before, whereas the purposive construction rule is broader where it not only figure out the gap between the old and new laws but it also helps judges to make an attempt to identify what parliament meant to achieve.

The days have passed by when judges used to use only strict rule where they interpret the law only based on the meaning of the words used in the statute, but now court seeks to give effect to the purposive rule where it not only consider the words of the statute according to their meaning but also according to the context. ‘Context’ here doesn’t mean only ‘linguistic context’, it takes into consideration the subject-matter, scope, purpose, and background of the act. 

Important features:

  1. Here judges do not go by the letter of the law, but they look into the intention and the spirit of the statute.
  2. Legislative intention is a fictitious concept.
  3. The legislative intention with respect to a particular statute can be an intention of the majority of the parliamentarians. 
  4. In mischief rule, the court resorts a particular act intended to remedy but purposive construction looks into the overall intention of the parliament on the statute. In this way, purposive construction is wider than the mischief rule. 

Regina V Barnet London Borough Council, Ex Parte Shah

In this case, there were five students who were immigrants came to London for the purpose of studies. They challenged the refusal to allow them grants for their education.

The court held that the House construed the expression ‘ordinarily resident’ in the 1962 and 1980 Acts. Long-standing authority on the meaning of the expression was referred to. The natural and ordinary meaning of ordinary residence had been settled by two tax cases. At least for educational purposes, ‘ordinary residence’ did not include a person whose residence in a particular place or country was unlawful.[14]

Other Rules

Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius

It is a Latin phrase that says ‘Express Mention and Implied Exclusion’ that means express mention of one thing excludes all other things. Here it is considered that the items which are not on the list are not covered by the statute. When something is expressly mentioned in the statute it leads to the presumption that the things which are not specified in the statute are excluded. 

General words in a statute must receive a general construction unless the statute is specifying any special meaning to the general words. Whenever something is added in the statute it is added with the due consciousness. It is assumed that if something is not added in the statute there is a reason behind it, which is to exclude that from the particular statute. 

Contemporanea Expositio Est Optima Et Fortissima in Lege

It is one of the best and the strongest way of interpretation. As time passes by words used in the statute will undergo changes in their meaning but when it is interpreted the word should bear its original and same meaning as the statute intended when it was passed.

The meaning of the law should be interpreted in the context when the law was formulated. Old statutes must be interpreted in such a way where that defines its purpose of introducing it. And it also considers the prior usage and interest or of enforcing the act at the time when the law was enacted.

If the word is wrongly interpreted for all these years those kinds of words will not be eligible for interpretation. The words can only be interpreted by the court when the title of the property may be affected or when everyday transactions have been affected. 

Noscitur a Soclis

Noscitur a soclis is a Latin term which means associated words, the meaning of unclear words or phrases is to be determined or interpreted on the basis of its context and the words and phrases surrounding it. 

Associated words try to explain the meaning of the general words and also limit the interpretation of specific or special terms. When a word used in a statute is ambiguous or vague, the meaning of such words will be determined by looking associated words around it. These surrounded associate words will give clear and specific meaning to it.

The importance of this rule is it aims to interpret by reading the whole statute. It doesn’t emphasize one particular word but it tends to interpret the word by looking into its preceding and succeeding words. The words are understood in a cognitive sense and the intention of the legislatures can be easily understood.

Aids in Interpretation 

Interpretation is the process of finding out the true essence of the enactment, by giving natural and ordinary meaning to the words of enactment. This helps in ascertaining the true meaning of the words used in a statute. 

The main objective of the interpretation of statutes is to determine the intention of the legislature where the meanings of the words are expressly or impliedly mentioned. Courts sometimes interpret the statute In an arbitrary manner, so in order to overcome all these confusions, certain principles have evolved out of the continuous exercise by the courts. These principles are called ‘Rules of Interpretation’.

Rules of interpretation act as a tool in determining the meaning of the particular act which is mainly divided into two they are:

  1. External Aid: the external evidence derived from extraneous circumstances, such as previous legislation and decided cases, etc.
  2. Internal Ais: the internal evidence derived from the Act itself. 

Internal Aids

Judges while interpreting a statute takes many things into consideration. Determining the primary meaning of the statutory words. And where there is ambiguity in the meaning of the words in the statute. Answers to the many questions of ambiguity will be there in the statute itself. Those are called ‘Internal Aids’.

Title of the Statute

  1. Long title

Every statute starts with the long title, it gives the description of the object of that Act.

For example, the long title of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is – “An Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to the procedure of the Courts of Civil Judicature”.

The long title is used by the court to interpret certain provisions of the statute. It helps in removing the ambiguity and confusion of the act and not in giving conclusive aid in interpreting the provisions of the statute.

Manohar Lal v. State of Punjab

The long title of the Act is relied upon as a guide to decide the scope of the Act.

  1. Short Title

Usually, the short title is used for the purpose of referring and identification of any Act. it ends with the year of the passing of the Act. This is one of the important part of the statute but its role in interpretation is very minimum.

For example, Section 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, says –“This Act may be cited as the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. It shall come into force on the first day of January 1909.”

  1. Preamble

The main aim and objective of the act is found in the preamble of the statute. All the Acts starts with the preamble, stating the reasons behind the enactment of the act and the main objective of the act.

For example, the Preamble of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is “Whereas it is expedient to provide a general Penal Code for India; it is enacted as follows”.

Kashi Prasad v. State

The court held that even though the preamble cannot be used to defeat the enacting clause of a statute, it can be treated as a key for the interpretation of the statute.

  1. Heading and Title of a chapter

Heading gives the key to the interpretation of the clauses under it and helps to know what the intent of the provision. Headings might be treated as the preamble to the provision.

Durga Thathera v. Narain Thathera and Anr

The court held that the headings are like a preamble which helps as a key to the mind of the legislature but does not control the substantive section of the enactment.

  1. Marginal Notes

Marginal notes are inserted at the side of the section and help to understand the effect of the section. This cannot be used for interpretation of the section.

Wilkes v. Goodwin

It was held that the side notes are not part of the Act and hence marginal notes cannot be referred.

  1. Definitional/Interpretation Clauses

Definition clause is used to define all the important terms and to avoid the necessity of frequent repetitions in describing the same subject matter to which the word or expression defined is intended to apply.

Definition clause of one particular Act is applied only on the particular Act, not on any other Acts.

  1. Illustrations

Illustrations are the examples given in the statutes for a better understanding of the section.

Mahesh Chandra Sharma v. Raj Kumari Sharma

It was held that illustrations are parts of the Section and help to elucidate the principles of the section.

  1. Proviso

Proviso provides examples of specific cases. These specific examples are given to such cases where general words require special meaning for it.

  • ‘Exception’ is intended to restrain the enacting clause to particular cases.
  • ‘Proviso’ is used to remove the special cases of the general enactment and give them special recognition.
  • ‘Saving Clause’ is used to protect the destruction of certain rights, privileges and remedies already existing.
  1. Explanations

Explanations are added to the section to explain and elaborate on the meaning of the words in the section. The purpose behind this explanation is to explain, clarify, subtract or include something by elaboration. This forms an important part while interpreting the laws.

  1. Schedules

The schedule forms an important part of the statute. This should be read along with the section. It contains minute details which adds information to the provisions of the enactment. The expressions of the schedule cannot override the meaning of the provision.

  1. Punctuation

Punctuation is one of the minor element of the statue. It should be given importance only when there is proper punctuation used and when there is no doubt about its meaning.

External Aids

When internal aids that are preamble, explanation, illustrations, etc are inadequate for the purpose of interpretation, Judges may take external aids into consideration. When the words of the Act are clear and unambiguous, the external aids are not required. 

  1. Historical Background

This includes the original idea of drafting such an Act. The reason behind enacting such laws the cases which influenced the parliamentarians to bring out such laws. It also includes the debates made during passing the laws. And the first-hand hand information collected while making the laws.

  1. Reference to Reports of Committees

The reports made by the various committees during the enactment of the legislation can be referred as it gives more clarity to the words and also helps us to understand the intention behind the act, by this, we can figure out what was the defect or mischief which was present in the previous law.

When parliament passes the enactment based on the committee report and there is any confusion or ambiguity in the terms of the statute that can be easily clarified by referring that committee reports and it helps in the interpretation of the statute very efficiently.

Rosy and another v. State of Kerala and others

The Supreme Court Considered Law Commission of India, 41st Report for interpretation of section 200 (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

  1. Judicial Decisions (Precedents)

Every enactment made by the parliament is based on some or other case, so by referring to the previously giving judgments by the higher courts helps us to analyse and form laws. These judgements may be Indian judgements or foreign judgements. Foreign decisions can be taken into consideration when other countries also follow the same system of jurisprudence. But the priority should be given to the Indian judgements.

  1. Dictionary 

When the meaning of the word is not clear in the statute, the meaning of those words can be figured by looking into the dictionary. And there are certain words which have a different legal definition and common English definition, so whenever we are looking for the legal meaning of any word it is good to search that in the black dictionary.

  1. Social, Political and Economical and Scientific Developments

When the statute is being interpreted it should consider the present system in society. It should take into consideration the changes in the situations and circumstances which have occurred after the implementation of any act. And most importantly the changes in the social conditions and the scientific changes in terms of technology should be given at most importance. When court starts doing this kind of interpretation this helps the legislature to bring out the new amendments for the statute.

  1. Other materials

Courts can also refer to the books, journals, papers, articles which are published by the eminent scholars who are expert in that field.


The article covers all most all the tools of interpretation, by following these interpretations one can understand and analyse the statute in a better way. This also helps legal fraternity to analyse newly enacted laws by the parliament and to find out the pros and cons of it. It is an extensive article covering most of the relevant topics, for further information you can refer bibliography.





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