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Interpretation of Statutes

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HomeBrud.gifInterpretation of Statutes

What is Interpretation of Statutes?

Custom, Precedent and Legislation are the three main sources of Law. In modern times, Legislation has become an important source of law. The law that comes into being from Legislation is called Enacted Law or Statute Law. Courts have the power to interpret and understand the meaning and intent of the legislation while dealing with cases. This process of understanding / ascertaining the meaning of the letters and expressions of the statute done by the court is called Interpretation of Statute.

Courts try their best in understanding the true meaning and intention of the legislation in the statute. However, when one or more portions or the statute itself is against the law of the land, court strike them down and invalidates them. In some cases, this striking down process appears so great that the decision is widely perceived as constituting a new policy made by Judges and not by the legislators or administrators.

Aids in interpretation of statutes

Internal Aids

Every internal part of the statute is an internal aid in interpretation of statutes.

External Aids

  • Historical setting / context
  • Parliamentary debates
  • International Conventions
  • Dictionaries
  • Textbooks
  • Social setting
  • Political setting
  • Economic development
  • Statutes in pari materia
  • Contemporanea expositio
  • Foreign decisions

Rules and Construction

  • Literal Rule: Words and phrases will have their general meaning. In case of technical legislation, they will have technical meaning.
  • Golden Rule: In some cases, Judges might have to move away from literal meaning towards logical meaning not with reference to letter of the law but with the spirit with which the law has been enacted.
  • Mischief Rule or Purposive Construction: Consideration of four points in the process of interpretation: What is the law before the enactment, What was the mischief or defect the earlier law had, what is the solution provided and what is the reason for the remedy?
  • Beneficial Construction: Widening the natural meaning of the language


  • Organizations and bodies (such as the American Law Institute) that work outside the court too interpret the law (statutes) and court decisions for our easy understanding.

Related Cases / Recent Cases / Case Law

  • Ardeshir v Flaora Sassoon, AIR 1928 PC 208: "It will be useful, in the interpretation of the relevant sections, to have in mind what the English system on which the Act is based was in its origin and in its fullness at the date of codification."

Related Cases / Recent Cases / Case Law

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