This article titled ‘Maxims of Statutory Interpretation: Introduction and Meaning.’ is written by Simran Kang and discusses the maxims of statutory interpretation. I. Introduction When it comes to enforcing the law, understanding the law is critical. The legislation should be interpreted in accordance with the original intent of the legislators so that the law can be applied to the… Read More »

This article titled ‘Maxims of Statutory Interpretation: Introduction and Meaning.’ is written by Simran Kang and discusses the maxims of statutory interpretation. I. Introduction When it comes to enforcing the law, understanding the law is critical. The legislation should be interpreted in accordance with the original intent of the legislators so that the law can be applied to the people and the purposes for which it was enacted. The ability to interpret statutory provisions is...

This article titled ‘Maxims of Statutory Interpretation: Introduction and Meaning.’ is written by Simran Kang and discusses the maxims of statutory interpretation.

I. Introduction

When it comes to enforcing the law, understanding the law is critical. The legislation should be interpreted in accordance with the original intent of the legislators so that the law can be applied to the people and the purposes for which it was enacted.

The ability to interpret statutory provisions is now an essential aspect of obtaining a legal education. The Latin word “interpretari,” which means “to explain, explain, know, or decipher the language,” is the source of the word interpretation.

To understand the law, interpretation is said to be an art and there are a number of rules that must be followed. In this article, we take a look at legal maxims used to interpret a statute.

II. Delegatus Non Potest Delegare

This maxim is not an established legal principle. Basically, it’s just an explanation of how to read the law. In most cases, sub-delegation of legislative power is prohibited, although it can be allowed if such power is explicitly granted in the statute or can be inferred by necessary implication.

This is because it is well-established that a sub-delegate can only operate within the boundaries of the authority he has been given. “A person who has been given a power cannot then delegate that power to someone else.”

Since the initial delegation clearly allowed it, a person who has been given authority or decision-making power by a higher source can’t thereafter transfer that authority or decision-making power to another.

Unless the original delegation has permitted it, a person who has been given authority or decision-making power by a higher source cannot delegate such authority or power to another unless the original delegation clearly permits it. In a nutshell, a delegate can’t reassign. While principal and agent issues are the primary focus of this maxim, it is not limited to those situations. The maxim in general refers to delegating.[1]

In Allingham v. Minister of Agriculture,[2] the ministry authorised the Committee to provide such directives with respect to the cultivation, management or use of land for agricultural purposes as it judges appropriate under the Defense Regulations, 1939. An order from the committee’s Subordinate Officer was contested by a member of the public. It was determined by the Court that the committee’s sub-delegation of power was unconstitutional.

A.K. Roy v. State of Punjab,[3] was the first case in India to establish the dictum, wherein, sub-delegation of authority under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, was challenged. Section 24(2)(e) of the Act allows the State Government to establish a rule for delegating authorities and functions under the Act, but it does not include any sub-delegation of these powers and functions.

The court held that the legislators can always delegate powers, even if the maxim delegatus non potest delegare states that this is not permitted. While it’s generally accepted that the maxim is a general norm, it is possible to make an exception to it by explicitly authorising the sub-delegation of powers.

III. Expressio Unius Exclusio Alterius

It is a Latin term meaning that mentioning one thing implies the exclusion of everything other. In this case, it is assumed that the statute does not apply to anything that is not on the list. A presumption of exclusion arises when a statute specifically mentions something, and nothing else is addressed.

Unless a statute explicitly states otherwise, all broad phrases in a statute must be construed as meaning the same thing. When a new provision is inserted into legislation, it is done so with full awareness of its significance. Generally, it is considered that if something is not included in a statute, there is a reason behind it and that is why it is excluded from the statute.[4]

There was a legal question as to whether the statute of frauds, 1677 extended to the sale of stock and shares. Under this law, any agreement to sell items worth more than the stated amount had to be documented in writing.

As the phrases “goods, wares and merchandise” were not followed by more generic language, the court ruled that the legislation did not cover stocks and shares. In the event that the act explicitly states that the phrases listed are illustrative, this shall not be rigidly enforced.[5]

IV. Generalia Specialibus Non-Derogant

It is a Latin Maxim, which states that general laws do not take precedence over specific laws. For example, VAT is a special provision and the provisions in the CrPC are deemed general. The government enacted a law for a specific field, thus it supersedes general laws.[6]

There was a similar issue in State of Gujarat v. Patel Ranjibhai,[7] where the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959’s sections 33(6) and 35 were at odds. It was held that Section 33 (6) will take precedence over Section 35 in the case of unregistered sellers since it was deemed a special provision that better protected their interests.

In another case, General Manage Telecom and Anr v. M. Krishnan and Anr,[8] the court stated that the Indian Telegraph Act 1985 governs claims related to telephone bills and not the Consumer Protection Act of 1974, which governs other consumer complaints. The Consumer Protection Act was considered to be a general law by application of this maxim.

V. In Pari Delicto Potior Est Conditio Possidentis

The Latin phrase “in equal fault, better is the condition of the possessor” signifies that no one can sue another for the same wrongdoing. Courts are more likely to uphold the status quo when both parties have been wronged, which is why the possessor stands to gain.

The dirty hands or unclean hands doctrine is another name for this doctrine. For the application of this maxim, the plaintiff must be an active, voluntary participant in the wrongful behaviour, and the plaintiff’s misconduct must be at least roughly comparable to that of the defendant.

If the “adverse interest” exception to the in pari delicto doctrine is used, it may be possible for a corporation to recover damages from an agent who is cheating its principal only for his or her own advantage and to its own detriment.[9]

Additionally, there is an “innocent insider” exception in pari delicto, which states that if another agent within the business was unaware of the fraud and could have prevented it if they were aware, in pari delicto will not apply.

In Taylor v. Chester,[10] the plaintiff placed half of an alleged banknote with the defendant as a guarantee t o use the brothel owned by the defendant.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit to reclaim the half-dollar from the defendant. According to the maxim “in pari delicto potior est conditio possidentis,” the court decided that the plaintiff could not collect anything because the deposit was made on an illegal consideration to which he was also the party, and so he couldn’t establish the genuine character of the deposit.

VI. Utres Valet Potior Quam Pareat

It states that the construction of a rule should give effect to the rule rather than destroy it. This means that in the event that the provision can be construed in two ways, one of which renders it active, and the other renders it ineffective, the former takes precedence over the latter. There’s a presumption that it’s legal and prefers a construction that puts the statute in the hands of the legislators.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that if the presumption of constitutionality is not upheld, the legislation will not be legitimate or effective. in which the Indian Supreme Court ruled that state legislation was invalid because it violated the constitution and exceeded the legislative authority granted to it by the legislature.[11]

It is preferable for a thing to be valid than to be void, i.e. it is better to validate a thing than invalidate it. The purpose of a court is to interpret a statute “according to the intent of those who made it,” and a statute is supposed to be an authentic repository of the legislative will. It is not acceptable for the court to rescind from that role, as it could jeopardise the intent of the legislature and allow it to fade away into thin air.[12]

If feasible, the court should avoid construing the legislature as unreasonable. To be clear, the court must favour the validity of the statute over its invalidation as a constitutional requirement.[13]

So because the Legislature is believed to have no intention of exceeding its own jurisdiction[14] and is presumed to have no intention of enacting a law that violates or contravenes the constitutional provisions.

VII. Expressum Facit Cessare Tacitum

Expressum facit cessare tacitum, is a legal maxim that states “what is spoken renders what was implied silent”. In legal interpretation, this type of construction is used. A document’s clear and exact meaning should be embraced when a topic is addressed explicitly in the document.

When the explicit meaning is given, the implicit meaning is superfluous.[15] A number of cases in which this Court has applied this doctrine have emphasised the principle that expression precludes inference.

In Tulsiram Patel v. Union of India,[16] the Supreme Court interpreted Article 311 [2] of the Indian Constitution in accordance with the principle. It’s usually better to stick to the basics when it comes to building. It is the first and most fundamental rule of construction that the legislative intent can be found in the words themselves.

When an enactment’s true or legal meaning is determined, the word’s meaning is interpreted in light of the discernible purpose or object that encompasses both its mischief and its remedy. In order to properly interpret a statute, the Court must keep in mind the purpose of the legislation in mind.

VIII. In Bonam Partem

The judiciary’s customary reluctance to classify a remark as defamatory or disparaging where it can be shown to have a plausibly innocent aim is likewise in agreement with this decision.

Interpretationem in Bonam partum faciendum esse” translates to “Things must be understood in their best sense,” and this is exactly what it does. Following the term’s origins, we can deduce that ‘Bonam Partem’ means “the good side or section.”

This principle has a personal and privileged flavour to its application. The judiciary of a country is in a unique position to apply this principle to the interpretation of its national legislative principles. In addition, an attorney may find this notion useful when dealing with a lawsuit’s legal proceedings. As a result, it can be clearly observed that this principle is frequently used in defamation cases and in the interpretation of statutes.[17]

In the case of Birla Group Holdings Ltd v. Assessee,[18] the Indian Income Tax Act of 1961’s wording “tax payable on the basis of any returns” were scrutinised. On the basis of all legal returns and revenues, it was assumed to have meant the tax payable on the basis of accurate income disclosures, in Bonam partem. As a result, tax evasion was exempted from the Bonam partem rule in favour of money laundering.


References

[1] J. Willis, 1943, Delegatus Non Potest Delegare, HeinOnline.

[2] (1948) 1 All E.R. 780.

[3] (1986) AIR 2160.

[4] K.N. Krunashkar, 2019, Statute Interpretation: Everything important you should know about, iPleaders.

[5] Tempest v. Kilner (1846) 3 CB 249.

[6] B.M. Gandhi, Interpretation of Statutes, Second Edition, Eastern Book Company.

[7] (1979) AIR 1098.

[8] (2010) SC 90.

[9] Rinky Sharma, In pari delicto potior est conditio possidentis, Indian Institute of Legal Studies, West Bengal.

[10] (1869) LR 4 QB 309.

[11] Indra Sawhney v Union of India (1992) Supp. (3) SCC 217.

[12] Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Mangal Singh Shyamlal (1975) SC 1106.

[13] State of Punjab v. Prem Sukhdas (1977) 3 SCR 403.

[14] M.K. Balakrishnan Menon v. ACED (1972) 83 ITR 162 (SC).

[15] B.M. Gandhi, Interpretation of Statutes, Second Edition, Eastern Book Company.

[16] (1985) SC 1416.

[17] Roopani balaji, 2013, “In Bonam Partem”: Conceptualization, History and Application, Kreetam.

[18] (2009) ITA No. 1201/Mum/2009.


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Updated On 2021-12-18T13:12:22+05:30
Simran Kang

Simran Kang

Symbiosis Law School, Pune

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