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 What is Interpretation of Statute?

The process of understanding expressions of the statute is called Interpretation of Statute. The object of interpretation of statutes is to determine the intention of the legislature conveyed expressly or impliedly in the language used.

 For this rules which help to get the right interpretation of law are discussed below

Primary Rules

Secondary Rules

Rule of Literal Interpretation

Contemporanea expositio est optima et fortissinia in lege

Rule of Reasonable Construction

Noscitur a Sociis

Rule of Harmonious Construction

Heydon’s Rule or Mischief Rule

Rule of Exceptional Construction

Rule of Ejusdem Generis


Rule of Literal Interpretation 

Understanding words, phrases and sentences of a statue in their ordinary and natural meanings. In simple words read the law as it is written without adding or deleting any words written in Law. This rule will not be applicable in following circumstances:

  • If Language is Ambiguous i.e. two interpretations is possible.
  • If the literal interpretation defeats the actual intention of legislation.

Rule of Reasonable Construction

Every Statue has some objective if literal Interpretation defeats the purpose then intention of Statutes to be understood to understand real meaning of Statute. It helps to clears errors caused by lawmaker in drafting the law.

This rule is usually avoided to complete interpretation unless the intent in itself can be interpreted properly.

Rule of Harmonious Construction

When there is a conflict between two or more statues or two or more parts of a statute then the rule of harmonious construction needs to be adopted. This Rule Basically Says read Law as a whole. If two or more statues cannot be reconciled with each other then court decision will prevail

Rule of Beneficial Construction or Heydon’s Rule or Mischief Rule

The mischief rule is applied to find out what is the intention of law maker. The rule is an old rule, based on the Heydon’s Case (1584) in which four points to be considered when interpreting a statute

  • What was the law before the Act was passed?
  • What was the "mischief and defect" for which the common law did not provide?
  • What is the remedy that act have provided?
  • What is the true reason of the remedy?

Rule of Exceptional Construction

The Basic Purpose of this rule is to eliminate the words or phrases which defeat the real objective of the Statute or give non sensible meaning.

It also stands for construction of words ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘may’ & ‘shall’. ‘or’ is normally disjunctive and ‘and’ is conjunctive. They are read vice versa only if literal meaning gives absurd result.

The word ‘may ’generally is optional but is also read as mandatory where subject involves discretion coupled with obligation and also where the word ‘may’ may defeat the purpose of Statute. Similarly ‘shall’ is considered to be mandatory in nature.

Rule of Ejusdem Generis

This rule means when specific words are used and after those some general words are used then general word would take colour from some specific words earlier.

This rule cannot be applied in the words with a wider meaning appear before the words with specific.

Contemporanea expositio est optima et fortissinia in lege:

This rule says that to understand a Statute is to read it as it would have been read when made.

Noscitur a Sociis:

This rule says that when various specific words are written together in one sentence shall be interpreted in same sense. 

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