Golden Rule of Interpretation of Statutes by Yaminee Verma @LEXCLIQ

The Act or Statutes are laws that are formulated and documented by the Legislature in compliance with the prescribed Parliamentary rules of procedure. The courts interpret the written laws and apply them to different cases as per requirement. The process of interpretation is done by following certain set of rules. The very basic rule of interpretation of a statute is the Literal rule of Interpretation wherein the courts take the wordings of the legislation exactly the way it is written. Golden Rule of Interpretation of Statute is a modification of the Literal Rule wherein the court take a look into the literal meaning of the statute in the first instance and if such an interpretation would create irregularity or ambiguity the court shall modify the literal grammatical meaning of the provision to the extent of such irregularity. If in any case there are two possible interpretations arising out of the literal interpretation of the statute, the court shall reject that interpretation that would create an irregularity or absurdity.

There are two ways in which the Golden Rule of interpretation could be used by courts-

  • When there is more than one interpretation of the statute, the court rejects the one which is ambiguous in nature and doesn’t conform with the intent or purpose of the Act.
  • When the literal interpretation of the statute or any of its provisions lead to an absurd meaning, the court can make modifications to the extent of removing this irregularity.

In Prabhudas Damodar Kotecha vs Manhabala Jeram Damodar, the Supreme Court held, “Golden-rule is that the words of a statute must be prima facie be given their ordinary meaning when the language or phraseology employed by the legislature is precise and plain. This, by itself, proclaims the intention of the legislature in unequivocal terms, the same must be given effect to and it is unnecessary to fall upon the legislative history, statement of objects and reasons, framework of the statute etc. Such an exercise need be carried out, only when the words are unintelligible, ambiguous or vague.”

Criticism

  1. One of the main limitations of the Golden rule of interpretation is that the courts have very little scope for interpreting the statute or its provisions.
  2. The preference is given to the natural meaning of the statute like the Literal rule of interpretation and the judge do not have much discretion is analysing the meaning of the provisions. The judges are allowed to alter the natural meaning of the statute only if the absurdity in it is pursuant to the literal meaning of the statute.
  3. When the reliance is placed entirely upon vague, undefined and subjective concept when interpreting the statute, it defeats the purpose of the rule as its ultimate applicability depends on the social and political views of the judge.

Conclusion-

The Golden Rule of Interpretation of Statutes forms an important part in removing any ambiguity in the provisions of the statute while making the interpretation. However, it is a fact that unlimited scope of judicial intervention brings an imbalance in legal framework and therefore, the power of the judge to drift from the natural meaning of any provision have to be limited.

Written by Yaminee Verma @LEXCLIQ

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