Interpretation of statutes is a critical step in enforcing the law. Furthermore, the interpretation must be made in accordance with the many rules that have been established.

Interpretation of statutes is a critical step in enforcing the law. Furthermore, the interpretation must be made in accordance with the many rules that have been established. Introduction The legislation written by legal experts is believed to leave little opportunity for interpretation or construction because it is written in such a way. However, the experiences of all those who are tasked with enforcing the law have been quite diverse. Though precise, specific, and unambiguous...

Interpretation of statutes is a critical step in enforcing the law. Furthermore, the interpretation must be made in accordance with the many rules that have been established.


The legislation written by legal experts is believed to leave little opportunity for interpretation or construction because it is written in such a way. However, the experiences of all those who are tasked with enforcing the law have been quite diverse.

Though precise, specific, and unambiguous language isn’t always required in statutes, courts must nonetheless discern the exact meaning of the legislature’s words and phrases in order to avoid any ambiguity.

In this article, we outline and try to understand the secondary rules of statutory interpretation that are applied by legal minds to determine the true intention of the legislature and the impact it objects to having on society.

The process of interpreting and implementing legislation to resolve disputes is known as statutory interpretation. An interpretive approach is required where the law contains nuanced or vague provisions. As a general rule, the terms in a statute are clear and understandable. Nonetheless, in some situations, the wording of a statute may be ambiguous or obscure, and the judge must determine the meaning.

The uncertainty stems from the very essence of language itself. Even the most precise translation of a law’s intent into textual form is not always achievable. To decide whether or not the statute relates to the circumstances before the judge, it may be necessary to look at just one word or phrase in the statute to see if it encompasses some aspect of what is happening.[2]

Language’s breadth necessitates that there will almost always be two competing interpretations that are equally convincing. Finally, a judge is left with little choice except to rely on his own judgement and record of legislative intent.

Traditional canons of statutory interpretation, legislative history, and the intent of a statute are some of the instruments and procedures used by courts to determine the meaning of a statute. Rules of statutory interpretation can be applied to legislation issued by the legislature or laws delegated to an administrative agency such as regulations.[3]

In order for a language to be useful, it must be able to be used in a wide variety of contexts. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution has a wide range of translations produced over a period of time. Rules of statutory interpretation may be applied to an authority or appointed law-making entity, such as guidelines for the management of a company’s legal department.

The rules of interpretation are divided into two categories, namely, Primary Rules and Secondary Rules. Three main types of Primary Rules are:

  1. Literal Rule – It is also known as the Plain Meaning Rule
  2. Mischief Rule – It aims at determining the intention of the legislator
  3. Golden Rule – It aims at harmonious construction of the statute

In this article, we discuss the secondary rules of statutory interpretation, which includes:

  1. Noscitur a sociis
  2. Ejusdem Generis
  3. Reddendo singula singulis

I. Rule of Noscitur a sociis

It is imperative that every term or phrase in the statute be viewed in the context of its application, rather than viewed in isolation. The meaning and impact of each section of the provision must be interpreted in light of the context in which it is made. The judiciary has devised the rule of noscitur a socii in order to implement the fundamental norm.[4]

“Noscitur a sociis” means “the meaning of an unclear or ambiguous word should be determined by considering the words with which it is related in the context,” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary. The rule has a limited scope as it can only be used in those situations wherein the legislation was unclear or ambiguous at the time. Without an issue in interpretation, the rule cannot be applied.

In order to avoid any confusion, it has been made plain that the rule cannot be used to render any of the connected words redundant. The rule of noscitur a sociis cannot be used in circumstances where the legislature’s or Parliament’s deliberate use of language that would broaden the scope of the legislation is reflected in its intention. The rule of noscitur a socii has been applied in a number of judicial proceedings.

In State of Assam v. Ranga Muhammad,[5] the court applied the rule to determine whether the Governor had to confer with the HC in the transfer of a sitting Judge, and found that the phrase “posting” in the context of district judges was related with other words like “appointments” and “promotions.” However, these two terms could not be understood to include “transfer,” hence the Governor had to consult the HC in this case.

Similarly, a clarification was sought in regard to Article 194 of the Indian Constitution in the matter of State of Karnataka v. UOI,[6] in relation to the Question that is the legislature that is given power under Art. 1, or is such power vested only in the legislators themselves? In order to address this question, the court used this principle to say that the terms used in relation to the word in question (“powers”) gave it both its meaning and context.

In another case, “consumables” under S5B of Andhra Pradesh Good and Services Act 1957 had to be interpreted in conjunction with “raw materials,” “component part,” “sub-assembly part” as well as “intermediate part” by the Supreme Court of India (SC). Other than the provisions above mentioned, S5B permitted for taxes to be placed on raw materials.

“Consumables” in the context of these phrases signifies that the good used must serve as a means to produce the final result. As a result, the Court decided that the assessee could not benefit from S5B’s concessional rate because the natural gas consumed by the assessee was not used as a consumable item.[7]

Moreover, in State of Bombay v. Hospital Mazdoor Sabha,[8] the rule’s scope was examined. According to the ruling, the rule of noscitur a socii is merely a rule of construction. Unless the legislative aim is clear, this cannot be applied. When the legislative intent is ambiguous due to the use of broad words with narrow meanings, this rule might be utilised to clarify what the legislators intended.

II. Rule of Ejusdem Generis

It is a Latin term that means “of the same kind,” and it is used to understand loosely drafted statutes. Whenever a law specifies a specific group of people or things, and then makes general assertions about them, the general claims only apply to those specific groups.

Another way to put it is that Ejusdem Generis is the Latin phrase for “words of the same sort.” For example, when two terms have the same characteristic (i.e. a class), any general words that follow should be taken to refer to the class as a whole.[9]

Specific and general words are recognised and given effect by using the class indicated by those specific words to expand the statute’s definition to encompass other terms or objects. Because it is not applied in a vacuum, the theory cannot be used as a means of resolving disputes by simply tying them to Ejusdem Generis’ procrustean bed.

There are a number of prerequisites that must be met before the doctrine can be said to be in effect, but the most critical is that the class must be identified.[10] The prerequisites are as follows:

  1. Enumeration by specific words in the statute;
  2. the members of the enumeration suggest a class;
  3. the class is not exhausted by the list;
  4. an additional general reference that usually follows the list; and
  5. there is no clearly manifested intent that the general term be given a broader meaning than the doctrine requires.

Rule Ejusdem Generis must be implemented cautiously since it requires deviating from the meaning of words in order to give them a presumed legislative intent.

This is a risky move. The rule must be governed by the fundamental rule that statutes must be construed in order to achieve the goal sought. In order for the general terms to be presumed to be restricted to a single genus, the specific words must all come from the same family.

In the case of Kochunni v. State of Madras,[11] it was held that when general terms follow specific and particular terms of the same sort, those general terms must be limited to the same kind as those described. However, it has been established through court rulings that individual words must create a separate genus or category. However, it is not a law that cannot be overturned but rather an acceptable inference where there is no evidence to the contrary.

In the case of Lilavati Bai v. State of Bombay,[12] there was a disagreement over the meaning of “or otherwise.” The wife of the occupant stayed in the property. The premises had been requisitioned by the respondent under the Bombay Land Requisition Act, 1948, section 6(4)(a). As a result, the petitioner argued that this requisition was invalid because the premises were not empty.

When the tenant is evicted or transferred or his lease is terminated, a vacancy is created. This petitioner cited the provision that said that “vacancy will exist when the tenant ceases to be in occupation.” The petitioner argued that the general word must be limited to the terms before it in order to comply with the doctrine of ejusdem generis. The Supreme Court refused to apply the doctrine because the words preceding the general term don’t form an identifiable genus.

III. Rule of Reddendo Singula Singulis

Each and every utterance or articulation is referred to by the Latin word “Reddendo Singula Singulis,” which means “to each and every one of them.” The rule is concerned with the distribution of words.

It may be appropriate to deliver each subject to each by distributing the arrangement and assigning each object to its appropriate subject. The verbs and their subjects, as well as another grammatical element, are subject to a comparison rule.[13]

I devise and bequeath all my real and personal property to B’ is a typical example of this idea in practice. Only in the context of personal law can the term “device” be used. When a sentence has multiple antecedents and consequents, it should be read in order of decreasing importance.

The words should only be used in relation to the topic for which they are most relevant. When the early expressions of a Section are generic and the following portions direct specific occurrences, this strategy is used to reduce the influence of articulation that is too vast to even consider being understood in a genuine sense.

As a result, when a statement begins with a few phrases that convey power, authority, and commitment, not all of the words need to relate to the few elements of the condition. Alternatively, it might be built reddendo similis singulis, with the phrases expressing power and authority applied just to the topic at hand, and those expressing promises applied to other individuals alone.

Similar rules apply to places in a law where the word “viable” appears multiple times or is widely dispersed throughout the text. Reddendo Singula Singulis translation difficulties can be mostly avoided by careful writing of the text. This problem will be resolved if the sentences are brief and contain only one subject and one item.

For an individual freshly elected, the five-year period refers to “since the political contest” and not to “before political decision day”. Because if it were to be anything different, it would have the effect of excluding a portion of the population, he would be eligible for reappointment to the vacant post immediately after the five-year period had expired before the new political decision was made.[14]

In Rajendra K. Bhutta v. Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority,[15] the High Court read the phrase “No Bill or alteration will be presented or moved” to mean that the Bill could not be introduced or moved without President’s prior approval. As a matter of law, no bill “will be presented” in a state legislature without the prior approval of the President, according to the Court’s interpretation of the stipulation.

Reddendo Singularis, according to Black’s Interpretation of Laws, means: “Where a sentence in a statute comprises a few forebears and outcomes, they are to be understood distributivity, that is, each expression or articulation is to be alluded to its appropriate article.”


Interpretation of statutes is a critical step in enforcing the law. Furthermore, the interpretation must be made in accordance with the many rules that have been established. In order to prevent judges from arbitrarily exercising the authority bestowed upon them, the norms must be strictly adhered to.


[1] 3rd Year student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

[2] Alekhya Reddy, Literally Interpreting the law – an appraisal of the literal rule of interpretation in India, Manupatra.

[3] Shubhanker Jhingta, 2021, Methods of Interpretation of Statutes and their relevance in Modern Society, International Journal of Law Management and Humanities.

[4] Simranjeet Kaur and Sagar Kumar, 2021, A study regarding the role of Noscitur a Sociis In Statutory Interpretation, International Journal for Legal Research and Analysis.

[5] (1967) SC 903.

[6] (1978) SC 68.

[7] Coastal Chemical Ltd. v. Commercial Tax Officer, A.P. and Ors., (1997) 107 STC 561.

[8] (1960) SC 610.

[9] Justice A.K. Srivastava, Interpretation of Statutes, Judicial Training and Research Institute Journal July 1995.

[10] Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board v. Harishanker, (1978) SCC (4) 16.

[11] (1960) AIR 1080.

[12] (1957) AIR 521.

[13] Rishang Singh, 2020, Reddendo Singula Singulis, Black N White Journal.

[14] P Chandra Mouli Etc. And Ors, v. Union of India (1980) Cri LJ 1241.

[15] (2020) C.A. No. 12248/2018

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Updated On 10 March 2023 6:55 AM GMT
Simran Kang

Simran Kang

Symbiosis Law School, Pune

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