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How to Interpret a Statute; 15 Important Supreme Court Cases

1. District Mining officer v. Tata Iron and Steel co., (2001) 7 SCC 358

Function of the court is only to expound the law and not to legislate. A statute has to be construed according to the intent of them and make it the duty of the court to act upon true intention of the legislature. If a statutory provision is open to more than one interpretation, the court has to choose the interpretation which represents the true intention of the legislature.

2. Krishna v. state of Maharashtra, (2001) 2 SCC 441

In absence of clear words indicating legislature intent, it is open to the court ,when interpreting any provision, to read with other provision of the same statute.

3. Essen Deinki v. Rajiv Kumar, (2002) 8 SCC 409

It is the duty of the court to give broad interpretation keeping in view the purpose of such legislation of preventing arbitrary action however statutory requirement can not be ignored.

4. Grasim industries ltd. v. Collector of Custom, (2002) 4 SCC297

While interpreting any word of a statute every word and provision should be looked at generally and in the context in which it is used and not in isolation.

5. Bhatia international v. Bulk trading S.A., (2002) 4 SCC 105

Where statutory provision can be interpreted in more than one way, court must identify the interpretation which represents the true intention of legislature. While deciding which is the true meaning and intention of the legislature, court must consider the consequences that would result from the various alternative constructions. Court must reject the construction which leads to hardship, serious inconvenience, injustice, anomaly or uncertainty and friction in the very system that the statute concerned is suppose to regulate.

6. S. Samuel M.D. Harresons Malayalam v. UOI, (2004) 1 SCC 256

When a word is not defined in the statute a common parallence meaning out of several meanings provided in the dictionaries can be selected having regard to the context in which the appeared in the statute.

7. M. Subba Reddy v. A.P. SRTC, (2004) 6 SCC 729

Although hardships can not be a ground for striking down the legislation, but where ever possible statute to be interpreted to avoid hardships.

8. Delhi Financial Corpn. v. Rajiv Anand, (2004) 11 SCC 625

Legislature is presumed to have made no mistake and that it intended to say what it said. Assuming there is a defect or an omission in the words used by the legislature, the court can not correct or make up the deficiency, especially where a literal reading there of produces an intelligible result. The court is not authorized to alter words or provide a casus omissus.

9. Deepal Girish bhai soni v. United India insurance ltd. (2004) 5 SCC 385

Statute to be read in entirety and purport and object of Act to be given its full effect by applying principle of purposive construction.

10. Pratap Singh v. State of Jharkhand, (2005) 3 SCC 551

Interpretation of a statute depends upon the text and context there of and object with which the same was made. It must be construed having regard to its scheme and the ordinary state of affairs and consequences flowing there from – must be construed in such a manner so as to effective and operative on the principle of “ut res magis valeat quam pereat”. When there is to meaning of a word and one making the statute absolutely vague, and meaningless and other leading to certainty and a meaningful interpretation are given, in such an event the later should be followed.

11. Bharat petroleum corpn.ltd. v. Maddula Ratnavali, (2007) 6 SCC 81

Court should construe a statute justly. An unjust law is no law at all. Maxim “Lex in justa non est.”

12. Deevan Singh v. Rajendra Pd. Ardevi, (2007)10 SCC528

While interpreting a statute the entire statute must be first read as a whole then section by section, clause by clause, phrase by phrase and word by word. The relevant provision of statute must thus read harmoniously.

13. Japani sahoo v. Chandra shekhar mohanty, (2007) 7 SCC 394

A court would so interpret a provision as would help sustaining the validity of law by applying the doctrine of reasonable construction rather than making it vulnerable and unconditional by adopting rule of literal legis.

14. Zakiya Begum v. Shanaz Ali, (2010) 9 SCC 280

An Explanation to a section should normally be read to harmonise with and clear up any ambiguity in the main section and normally not to widen its ambit.

15. Bondu Ramaswamy v. Bangalore Development Authority, (2010) 7 SCC 129

An interpretation that would avoid absurd results should be adopted – When the object or policy of a statute can be ascertained, imprecision in its language not to be allowed in the way of adopting a reasonable construction which avoids absurdities and incongruities and carries out the object or policy.

See Also : Dr. Rita Wahal Vs. Chancellor, King George’s Medical University [Allahabad High Court, 10-05-2017]

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