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Literal And Golden Rule Of Interpretation

The word interpretation is derived from the Latin word "interpretari," which means to explain, expound, comprehend, or translate. The practice of explaining, expounding, and translating any text or written form is known as interpretation. It refers to the process of explaining something or putting a document into perspective. The court's principal responsibility is to determine the legislature's intent in the statute's text.

It involves determining the true meaning of the statute's words. The numerous sources utilised are merely to explore the written content and clarify the meaning of the words used in the textual content or statutes. The court must follow certain rules while interpreting the Act. These ideas are referred to as interpretation rules. Interpretation of statutes refers to a correct comprehension of the law that is used to ascertain the legislature's exact intent.

Literal Or Grammatical Rule Of Interpretation

The literal rule of interpretation is the first rule to this interpretation. According to this rule, the words used in the text are to be given on interpreted in their natural or ordinary meaning. If the meaning of a statutory provision is entirely unambiguous after interpretation, the provision will be given effect, regardless of the implications. The basic rule is that the legislature's aim while making a provision was represented through words, which must be read according to grammatical standards.

It is the most to explore the written content and clarify the secure rule for interpreting statutes since the legislature's intention is determined by the words and language utilised. The court's only responsibility is to give effect to the statute's plain words, and it does not need to investigate any potential consequences. The court's only responsibility is to interpret the law as written, and if any unpleasant consequences result, the legislature must seek and enforce a remedy.

According to Lord Brougham, it is to take the literal meaning of the words that the legislature has given them, as well as the meaning that the words naturally imply unless the construction of such terms is regulated or altered by the preamble or the framework of the question words.

The following conditions apply to the literal meaning:

  1. A statute may allow for a special meaning for a term, which is normally found in the interpretation section
  2. If the statute does not provide otherwise, technical terms are given their ordinary technical meaning.
  3. By inference, no words will be added.
  4. Word's meanings may shift over time.
  5. It's important to remember that the meaning of words is determined by their context.

Advantages Of Literal Rule Of Interpretation

The advantages of the literal rule of interpretation are as follows:

  1. It enables the common man to understand the statue.
  2. Parliamentary supremacy is respected through this rule.
  3. It results in a quick decision as the meaning can be found in a dictionary or other sources.
  4. It provides no scope for judges to use their own opinions or prejudices.

Disadvantages Of Literal Rule Of Interpretation

The disadvantages of the literal rule of interpretation are as follows:
  1. It can create loopholes in the law.
  2. It can lead to injustice.
  3. It fails to injustice recognize the complexities and limitations of the English Language.
  4. It can lead to absurd decisions that were not what the Parliament intended.
  5. It gives Judges little discretion to adapt the low to changing times.
     

Case Laws On Literal Rule Of Interpretation

In Duport Steel Ltd v/s Sirs[1], Lord Diplock stated that where the understanding of the statutory words is plain and unambiguous, it is not for the judges to create fancied ambiguities as a justification for failing to give effect to its meaning and intent because the consequences would be inconvenient, even unjust or immoral.

In Bimal Chand v. Gopal Agarwal[2], the State Government released a notice under Section 3A of the U.P. Sales Tax Act, 1948, establishing a tax of 2% of the turnover payable at all points of sale in the case of cooked food. The appellant respondent was a registered firm which was involved in the business of manufacturing and selling biscuits that are designed for human consumption and claimed to be taxed at 2% under the notice because biscuit was cooked food.

The Supreme Court dismissed the argument, saying that words used in tax legislation should be defined in the same way that they are interpreted in common language in the jurisdiction where the law is in effect. If an expression has more than one meaning, the context determines whether the wide or narrow meaning should be adopted. Biscuits are often not cooked foods, and the same is true here.

In Subramanian Swamy v/s Dr Manmohan Singh and another[3], the Supreme Court found that a sanction for prosecution of respondent for breaches under the Act committed while holding an office of a minister but afterwards quitting but continuing to be a Member of Parliament is not required under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The court further stated that neither the 1988 Act nor the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 prohibits a citizen from filing a complaint about the trial of a public servant who is accused of committing an offence. As a result, a citizen's private complaint about the prosecution of a minister for violations of the Act is feasible.

Golden Rule Of Interpretation

The Literal Rule is expanded by the Golden Rule of Interpretation. It is regarded as the golden rule since it resolves all interpretation issues. Where the Literal rule emphasises, the literal meaning of the words used in legal language, the golden rule interprets the words in such a way that the absurdities, ambiguities, injustice, inconvenience, hardship, inequity, and anomalies of literal interpretation are discarded in such a manner that the purpose of the Legislation is fulfilled.

Generally, the court should follow the real meaning of the term or law specified in the statute, but when the natural or ordinary meaning of such terms included in a statute leads to injustice, evasion, or other wrongdoing, the court must adjust the meaning of those terms to the point where it does not cause unfairness to anybody. When a court is presented with many interpretations, the court must consider the meaning that comes closest to the genuine intent of the legislature.

The Golden Rule can be divided into two categories:

  1. Narrow approach:
    The narrow approach is used when the word used in the statute is ambiguous which means it is applied when the word or phrase is capable of more than one literal meaning. It's upon the judge to apply the meaning that avoids any kind of absurdity. In the case of R V. Allen (1872) and Alder V. George (1964) narrow approach was used.

    In R. v/s. Allen[4], the accused was charged with charges of violating Section 57 of the Offenses Against the Person Act,1861. A person married should marry some other person during the lifespan of the previous husband or wife who is guilty of an offence, according to the provision. Because civil courts do not recognise second marriages, the literal rule will not be applicable. The golden rule was used to avoid ambiguity in the meaning of the word marriage, which means to go through a marriage ceremony.

    In Alder v/s George[5], the defendant interfered with the performance of a military guard's duty. To demonstrate this, the prosecution has to show that the offence occurred in a military facility. The defendant argued that "in the area of a military establishment" meant "in the area of that location," even though the offender was already in the business, which was an RAF base. The court pointed out that the defendant's interpretation would be absurd, so the defendant was covered by the concept of 'in the area.'
     
  2. Wide approach:
    The wide approach is often used when there's just one literal meaning of a word, but applying it would cause absurdity. As a result, the court may change the definition of the word to avoid absurdity. In the case of re Sigsworth (1935) wide approach was used.
In re Sigsworth: Bedford v/s Bedford[6], also known as the MFP case, a mother is murdered by her son. According to the provision in the Administration of Justice, 2005, the mother's inheritance would be inherited by her next of kin, i.e., her son. This was the exact meaning of the clause, but the court didn't apply it in this case and instead used the golden rule, based on the fact that the son was indeed the murderer of his mother, and the court wasn't willing to let the murderer gain from his crime.

Advantages Of Golden Rule Of Interpretation

The advantages of the golden rule of interpretation are as follows:

  1. It gives the courts power to avoid absurdity which aims to the extent of providing justice
  2. It aims to avoid speedy amending legislation in parliament.
  3. It helps to close the loopholes.
  4. It provides a check on the strictness of the literal rule.
  5. It respects the laws and therefore the statutes that are formed by the parliament by applying the literal rule, the golden rule is to be applied only there are an absurdity and inconsistencies created by The Literal Rule of Interpretation.

Disadvantages Of Golden Rule Of Interpretation

The disadvantages of the golden rule of interpretation are as follows:

  1. A statute can be amended by the judges to override the reading.
  2. It is unpredictable, and there are no rules for when and when to use the golden rule.
  3. Judges can't undo past laws, and they can't even amend the present ones.
  4. The capacity of the Golden Rule is severely limited since the literal rule is to be applied first only in instances when the literal rule generates an absurdity.
  5. There is no clear guideline on when the Golden Rule should be implemented; each court may have its unique viewpoint; what appears silly to one judge may not appear absurd to another.
  6. It only authorises the judge to change the statute's meaning in very specific circumstances.

Case Laws On Golden Rule Of Interpretation

In Grey v. Pearson [7], the House of Lords stated that the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words should be followed unless doing so would result in absurdity, repugnance, or inconsistency with the rest of the instrument, in which case the grammatical and ordinary understanding of the words may be modified to avoid the absurdity and inconsistency but not any farther.

In Tarlochan Dev Sharma v. State of Punjab[8], the phrase 'abuse of his powers' was used in the expression "abuse of his powers or habitual failure to perform his duties" in Section 22 of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911. The Supreme Court stated that to determine the meaning of the term not specified in an enactment, courts follow the "subject and object rule," which requires a thorough examination of the topic of the law where the word appears and consideration of the legislature's intent. When choosing a word from a list of possibilities, the context must always be considered. In this context, the term "abuse of power" refers to an intentional abuse or a willful wrong. A legitimate but inaccurate exercise of authority or inaction is not an abuse of power.

End-Notes:
  1. (1980) 1 WLR 142.
  2. AIR 1981 SC 1656.
  3. AIR 2012 SC 1185.
  4. (1872) LR 1 CCR 367.
  5. (1964) 1 All ER 628.
  6. (1935) Ch 89.
  7. (1857) 6 HL Cas 61.
  8. AIR 2001 SC 2524.
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