Rule of Interpretation of Statutes: All you need to know

Rule of Interpretation of statutes

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Introduction of the Rule of Interpretation of Statutes: – This article addresses the significance of the phrases ‘ and’ and ‘or’ in numerous statutes, as well as the approach of interpretation that should be utilized to guarantee that the Legislature’s manifest meaning is followed effectively.

In all countries, the legal system has evolved to guarantee that everyone has access to justice. It is critical, if not essential, that the courts interpret the law in a way that maximizes ‘access to justice’. The notion of ‘Precepts of Interpretation’ has been developed for this purpose. The Precepts are the guidelines that the judiciary has developed to assist courts in determining the intention and purpose of the statute.


SALMOND defines it as “the technique by which the Court system seeks to ascertain the legislative purpose through the method of reliable authoritative forms in which it has been stated.”

Law is a parliamentary edict that should be applied “to the objective of those who make it” with the judiciary’s “responsibility being to act upon the genuine intent of the Senate –men’s or sententia legis.”

Background Facts

The terms “or” & “and” utilized in rules, laws, or by-laws have specific meanings as specified by their makers, and the definitions of “or” and “and” shall be based entirely on the factual context in which they were used.

ut res magis valeat quam pereaf

According to Maxwell’s Statutory interpretation, under the heading ‘ut res magis valeat quam pereaf,’

If the decision is between two conceptions, the slightly wider of which would fail to obtain the legislature’s manifest objective, we must prevent construction that would actually reduce the legislative proposals to absurdity and instead simply accept the bolder construction focused on the perspective that the Legislature would pass legislation only to obtain an effective outcome.

‘Where alternative meanings are equally available, the option that will be relatively consistent with the efficient functioning of power system that the statute intends to regulate is to be adopted; and the option that will create doubt, conflict, or ambiguity into the system’s operation is to be rejected’.

Making the legislative provisions effective and functional is essential, but making them effective in a just and appropriate way is extremely essential, in my perspective. A construction of “and” & “or” will be established to give actual effect to this rule, ensuring that the provisions execute perfectly.

The Need for Interpretation

Michael Zander provides three reasons for the need for statutory interpretation in his book The Law-Making Process:

The ambiguity of statutes:

due to the nature of the matter, various draftspersons, and the integration of technical and legal language can outcome in incomprehensibility, ambiguous, and uncertain language.

The use of indeterminate phrases

It results from the apprehension of future occurrences. Indeterminate language is used as a result of the insurmountable obstacle of predicting every possible situation. As a result of the gaps in the legislation, judges must interpret statutes. Indeterminate language includes terms such as “reasonable.”. In this situation, it is up to the courts to define what the term “reasonable” means.

Language’s multi-faceted aspect

Language, phrases, and words are imprecise ways of communication. Terms can have a number of interpretations and definitions. Each party in court will use the meaning and definition of the language that best suits their requirements. It is dependent on the courts to determine the most appropriate use of the language used.

Words That Are Conjunctive Or Disjunctive

Initially, it may appear that the meanings of the terms “and” and “or” are insignificant, that they are simply irrelevant, and that they do not require much attention. However, on countless occasions, the entire meaning of the Statute has been transformed simply by interpreting the terms “and” and “or,” and the Judicature has generated an entirely new concept that has never been expected.

The words “or” and “and” are ordinarily disjunctive and conjunctive, but they are sometimes construed in the opposite order to carry out the legislature’s evident goal, as revealed by the context. ‘You do read “or” as “and” in a legislation,’ according to SCRUTTON L.J. However, you should only do so if you are obliged to, because “or” doesn’t always mean “and,” and “and” doesn’t  always mean “or.”

Furthermore, the basic rule is that “or” is usually disjunctive and “and” is generally conjunctive, and a deviation from this is only permitted if the Statute’s very objective and goal needs it. The explanation is that the Legislation has every authority to use “and” in a specific provision of the act, and nothing prevents them from doing so.

The absence of the word “and” and the usage of the word “or” indicates that the Legislation meant to use the word “or.” Unless the Legislature was barred from using the “and” by some purpose or issue, the statutory provision must be interpreted properly, and the rule that “or” is typically disjunctive and “and” is normally conjunctive must be followed.

Precedents in the Law

Manmohan Das Shah v. Bishun Das

“The basic rule of interpretation is that a statute’s provision must be interpreted in accord with the term used therein if there are persuasive grounds intended to include the word “or,” the Supreme Court declared. .” For example, a literal reading would consider the provision absurd or prohibit the legislature’s apparent objective from being carried out. There’s no explanation why the term “or” should be construed in any form other than its ordinary interpretation. If the construction proposed by Mr Desai is accepted and the word “or” is interpreted as explanation “and,” it means that the construction must not only materially modify the accommodation but also substantially reduce its significance…………”

Kamta Prasad  v. Executive Engineer

S.C. ruled in Kamta Prasad  v. Executive Engineer

That “depending on the perspective, “or” maybe interpreted as “and,” but that “the Court wouldn’t be doing it unless it was so bound by law because “or” doesn’t  normally mean “and” and “and” doesn’t  generally mean “or.”

Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products v. U.O.I

The Apex Court reaffirmed the rule for interpreting the words ‘and’ and’ or,’ concluding that –

“The rule’s language is simple and concise. It does not allow for any interpretational ambiguity. The conjunction “and” is used to separate Provisos 1(i) and 2(i). They must be read simultaneously. Both provisos must be met in order to apply for the benefit.

The foregoing are a few instances of case scenarios where the Judges deviated from the principle of interpreting the words “or” as ordinarily disjunctive and “and” as normally conjunctive in order to avoid social injustice or to give effect to the true purpose of the Statute.

Conclusion of the Rule of Interpretation of Statutes

The conjunctions “and” and “or” can not be provided with a clear and definitive meaning, and the entire interpretation is dependent on the intention of the maker of legislation or bye-laws that use them.

In a recent judgment from 2011, U.O.I v. Ind-Swift Laboratories Ltd., the Supreme Court emphasized the importance of interpreting “and” and “or” in a way that guarantees the Legislature’s apparent objective is carried forward.

Understanding the importance of proper interpretation of “and” and “or” is critical since it can sometimes completely change the meaning of the applicable legislative clause. The law must be interpreted in a way that eliminates evil and wrongdoing while advancing the actual meaning and purpose of the statute.

The Legislature cannot anticipate all of the potential future situations, and it is difficult to design legislation that will perfectly address all of them. This conflict is unavoidable, and it is the Judges’ responsibility to apply Interpretation techniques to provide the most desirable and required meaning in order for justice to prevail.


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