Intention of legislature

Intention Of Legislature

INTRODUCTION

“A verbis Legis non Est Recedendem” (you must not vary the words of a Statute).

We all live in a world where we have duties and obligations towards the state and society. The order is maintained in society because of the presence of law. The Law and order are maintained for the just and stable existence of mankind as is evident that the human tendency needs some kind of sanctions to regulate the behavior and it is mainly done by the actual presence of law. Law is some kind of element that actually binds all the members in the community together for recognizing the values and standards.

The ancient law derived its actual presence in society from sources like Customs, Precedents, and Legislations. Today, the authentic and most reliable source is “statutes” or which is known as Enacted laws of the legislature. The modern Acts are made by the legislature (parliament) for the needs of society. These are used as the basic and primary source by a judicial authority for carrying out their day-to-day operation. Every judicial and administrative body is working according to the enacted laws and statutes.

A Statute is the will of the legislature. The legislature will follow the procedure laid down or prescribed in the enactment of laws. If there is any procedural defect in the legislative process, it may be cured immediately by appropriate legislative action i.e., by amendment to the existing provision or inserting a new one in its place, without canvassing or challenging in the courts. Courts are under a duty to interpret the Statute irrespective of ambiguity or lack of clarity or otherwise, in order to discharge its basic duty of doing justice[1].

The extent to which the legislature and its intent can shape the understanding and implementation of a statute is indeterminate. The value of time varies with time as well as across jurisprudences. In India, it becomes necessary for the court to evaluate the role of legislature and its intent in statutory interpretation.

The court will involve in interpretation or construction when it cannot proceed through the ordinary rules of interpretation or simply can’t understand the meaning and context of any word used and it will look into the intention of legislature and try to derive the words from statute. In certain cases, the courts have gone beyond the words of the statute and they have interpreted various statutory provisions in a manner as to be morally sound.

MEANING OF INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE

Interpretation means the art of finding out the exact meaning and true sense of an enactment passed by the legislature by looking into the words of the enactment and find out their natural and ordinary meaning. It is the process of determining the true meaning of words used in the statute. The courts follow certain procedure and principles for construction and these are principles are called ‘Rules of Interpretation’

Words spoken or written are the means of communication. Where they are possible of giving one and only one meaning there is no problem. But where there is a possibility of two meanings, a problem arises and the real intention is to be sorted out. If two persons communicating with each other are sitting together; they can by subsequent conversation clear the confusion and make things clear. But what will happen if a provision in any statute is found to convey more than one meaning? The Judges and the Lawyers whose duty it is to interpret statutes to have no opportunity to converse with the Legislature which had enacted a particular statute. The Legislature, after enacting statutes becomes functus officio so far as those statutes are concerned. It is not their function to interpret the statutes. Thus two functions are clearly demarcated. The legislature enacts and the Judges interpret[2].

The difficulty with Judges is that they cannot say that they do not understand a particular provision of an enactment. They have to interpret in one way or another. They cannot remand or refer back the matter to the Legislature for interpretation. That situation led to the birth of principles of interpretation to find out the real intent of the Legislature. Consequently, the Superior Courts had to give us the rules of interpretation to ease ambiguities, inconsistencies, contradictions or lacunas. The rules of interpretation come into play only where clarity or precision in the provisions of the statute are found missing.

The purpose of the interpretation of the statute Is to unlock the locks put by the Legislature. For such unlocking, keys are to be found out. These keys may be termed as aids for interpretation and principles of interpretation. The aids for interpretation may be divided into two categories, namely, Internal and External.

The meaning of the word Interpretation means how a judge will look into a particular word with matter or exact principle. “SALMOND” has defined the term interpretation in Jurisprudence as, “the process by which the court seeks to ascertain the meaning of the Legislature through the medium of authoritative forms in which it is expressed”.

SIGNIFICANCE OF INTENTION OF LEGISLATURE

In the Indian context, judges have often gone beyond the words of the statute and interpreted statutory provisions in a manner as to be socially and morally sound and based on the real intention of legislature. For this reason, judicial activism has been praised and the slight circumvention of the canons of interpretation has been ignored. However, such “activism” brings into question the theoretical binding value of legislative intent. In this paper, we conclude that the role of legislative intent in statutory construction has over the years, dwindled considerably.

The purpose behind framing any statute is mainly for the public benefit. The legislature is presumed to have a certain meaning of the words of any statute. Any statute framed should be in accordance with such meaning. During any interpretation of any statute, an advocate or a judge should always go by the rules of interpretation and all these rules are used to gathering the facts and they are processed to clear the ambiguity and vagueness of the statute and will give a clear meaning to the word. The process of interpretation is done going by the words of these statutes which is open to more than one interpretation. In this case, the court will have to choose the intention of the legislature which is used in enacting a statute representing the true intention of the legislature. So in this case, the court will look into the legal meaning or true meaning of all the statutory provisions.[3]

When any statute is clear and unambiguous, the courts stated that the inquiry into legislative intents ends at that particular point. The intention of the legislature is to be construed when there is a possibility of two interpretations differently arising and this has to be essentially constructed of two aspects, one is the concept of meaning i.e what the words mean and another is the words that state the concept of purpose and object or the reason and spirit coming through the statute.

The intention of legislature is a shorthand reference to the meaning of the word which is used by the Legislature and determined with guidance accepted principles of Interpretation. This interpretation is done by judges when the legislation was drafted because a statute is an edict of the Legislature. It is considered to be a reason that interpretation of stature is done according to the intention of those persons who make it. It is the duty of the judicature to act upon the true intention of legislature –the mens or sentential legis. The main object of interpreting the statute is to ascertain the intention in which a legislature is made. The primary function of all the appellate courts is the interpretation of statures and it is also conventional for courts to make it use of the rules in the actual course of interpretation. Some of the rules in interpretation of law are considered to be very ancient and others are actually recent. Some statutes are applicable only to one field such as criminal law or constitutional law.[4]

Intention of legislature aspects includes both meaning of the statute or words and also Purpose of the statute. Intention of legislature is assessed either in express words or by necessary implication in keeping in mind the purpose or object of the statute.  A mechanical interpretation of the words and application of legislature intent devoid of concept will make most of the remedial and beneficent legislation futile (ineffective).  Judiciary would meld or creatively interpret legislation as they are finishers, refiners and polishers of legislation.

Also Read : Is Bamboo A Tree or grass: What the Law says

TWO ASPECT OF INTENTION OF LEGISLATURE

The intention of the legislature is essentially constructed of two aspects:

1) The concept of meaning and

2) The concept of purpose and object.

The former connotes an understanding derived from the literal meaning of the words of a statute. The latter points to the spirit and reason pervading through the statute. The courts have to keep these aspects in mind while reading a statute; and are aided in this task by certain sources of legislative intent. These popularly include:[5]

  1. The text of the statute as proposed to the legislature.
  2. Proposed amendments to the statute, whether accepted or rejected, with reasons thereof.
  3. The record of hearings on the topic.
  4. Legislative records or journals.
  5. Speeches and parliamentary debates made prior to the vote on the bill.
  6. Legislative subcommittee (such as Standing Committee) minutes, factual findings, and/or reports
  7. Other relevant statutes that can be used to understand the definitions in the statute on question; for example the General Clauses Act, 1897.
  8. Other relevant statutes which indicate the limits of the statute in question; such as previous statutes on the same matter.
  9. Legislative files of the executive branch, such as the governor or president.
  10. Case law prior to the statute or following it which demonstrates the problems or issues the legislature was attempting to tackle with the statute.
  11. Constitutional determinations (Would Congress still have passed certain sections of a statute had it known about the constitutional invalidity of the other portions of the statute?)
  12. Legislative intent, which is the reason for passing the law

Certain principles of interpretation are formulated by the Superior Courts to find out the intention of the legislature:

1. Literal construction: The first and foremost construction is that of a literal construction. The courts are bound by the legislature and once any legislature has expressed its intention in clear words they are binding. If any provision is unambiguous, the legislative intent is clear and the other rules of construction are not clear they need not be called for any aid. They will be aided only when the legislative intention is not clear. If the words are clear in a legislature they should be applied even though their intention may be different or the result is harsh or undesirable.[6]

2. No external aid where words plain and unambiguous: The words of a statute are unambiguous and precise, the intention of every legislature or statute is gathered from the language itself and no need of construction of any words. Where a statue is not exhaustive or it is ambiguous or uncertain the external aid may be looked into for the purpose of ascertaining the object for framing any statute in the legislature.

3. Mischief rule (Heydon’s case): Whenever there arises any question as to determine any interpretation in an enactment, the court will have to ascertain the intention of making them and they must be gathered from the words used in the statute. The decision should not rest on a literal interpretation. Literal construction should have a prima facie preference. The rule gives more discretion than a literal or a golden rule of interpretation as it allows to effectively decide on parliament‟s intent.

4. Words coupled together to take colour from each other: This rule states that, when two or more words which have analogous meaning are coupled together, they are to be understood in proper sense and not in a wrong way. This rule will not apply in a case where the legislature has used more or wider words to widen the scope of any provision.

5. The golden rule: A hypothetical consideration should not have much weight in interpreting a statue. If the language permits, it is open to the court to give the statute any meaning which promotes the intent of legislation. The court will always have the power to depart from the construction if there is a strict adherence to the construction which will defeat the object of the legislature.[7]

6. Absurdity or hardship: The court will have no power to give the language of a statue a meaning which is wider than the literal one, until there is any reason compelling to give another meaning. If an interpretation of a statute has or leads to any absurdity or hardship then the construction may be put which modifies the meaning of the words and the sentence also. If the language which is to be constructed is plain, the legislature should step in and remove the absurdity. The considerations of the hardship should be ignored.

7. Liberal construction: It is necessary and legitimate to adopt the rule of liberal construction as to give a reason and meaning to all parts present in a statue and to make it effective and operative. The narrower and wider sense of a term is adopted and it depends on the provisions of the statute in which the term occurs depending on the various facts and circumstances of the case. If any words used in the provision are capable of only one construction, the doctrine of liberal construction cannot be of any help. The enactments related to procedures should be construed liberally in a manner as to render the enforcement of rights effective. This rule will apply to the interpretation of constitutional and statutory provision.

8. Harmonious construction: The statue should be construed and the construction has to be harmonious. The provisions which are in conflict with each other cannot stand together. They should be interpreted in a harmonious way and the effect should be given to both hand that a construction renders either of them inoperative. It is also the duty of the courts to avoid conflicts between the provisions and whenever it is possible the rule of harmonious construction applies and to different cognate acts such as the court fees or the civil procedure code. It can be unreasonable and illegitimate for a court to limit its scope arbitrarily or solely for the purpose of establishing harmony between them.

RECENT CASE LAWS CONCERNING INTENTION OF LEGISLATURE

In the Indian context, judges have often gone beyond the words of the statute and interpreted statutory provisions in a manner as to understand the real intention of legislature and be socially and morally sound, for this reason, judicial activism has been praised in India and considered strong.

Asif Iqbal Tanha vs State of NCT Delhi

In a recent case in 2021, Asif Iqbal Tanha vs State of NCT Delhi [8] Delivering a judgment defining the contours of the otherwise “vague” Section 15 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA) a division bench of the Delhi High Court said:

“In our opinion, the intent and purport of the Parliament in enacting the UAPA, and more specifically in amending it in 2004 and 2008 to bring terrorist activity within its scope, was, and could only have had been, to deal with matters of profound impact on the ‘Defence of India’, nothing more and nothing less”

The bench comprising Justices Sidharth Mridul and Anup Jairam Bhambhani was granting bail to Delhi-riots accused Asif Iqbal Tanha, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, who faced charges for being part of a “larger conspiracy” during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 protests which erupted into violence resulting in deaths across North-East Delhi.

Apart from charges under the Indian Penal Code, Tanha, Narwal and Kalita also faced charges under Chapter IV of the UAPA  under Sections 15, 17 and 18. While S. 15 engrafts the offence of ‘terrorist act’, S. 17 lays-down the punishment for raising funds for committing a terrorist act and S. 18 engrafts the offence of ‘punishment for conspiracy etc. to commit a terrorist act or any act preparatory to commit a terrorist act’.

Quoting the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Sanjay Dutt Case[9], the court noted that UAPA is a law with serious penal consequences and reiterated that, “when law visits a person with serious penal consequences, the courts must take extra care to ensure that those to whom the legislature did not intend to be covered by the express language of the statute are not roped in by stretching the law”.

X v. State( X to keep the privacy of juvenile)

In one another case, X v. State[10]  taking about the legislative intent the Punjab & Haryana High Court has held (on 24th of July) that a petition for grant of pre-arrest bail (also known as Anticipatory Bail) by a juvenile “cannot be held to be not maintainable.”

The bench of Justice H.S. Madaan observed,

“It could certainly not be the intention of the legislature that such juvenile should be first apprehended and then produce before Juvenile Justice Board, in the process denying relief to a juvenile, which is available to the other persons, who are accused of heinous offences.”

In the present case, an FIR (which also included the name of the present juvenile) was registered after a dispute erupted between two families in a village in Ellenabad tehsil of Sirsa District in Haryana.

The counsel for the petitioner/accused contended before the High court that under the ‘Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015’ (hereinafter referred to as the Act), there is no specific bar to the filing of the petition for grant of pre-arrest bail by a juvenile.

The counsel’s central argument was that Sections 10 and 12 of the said Act[11] deal with grant of regular bail and not with pre-arrest bail, therefore saying that a petitioner should appear before the ‘Juvenile Justice Board’ for seeking bail is not proper.

The bench acknowledged the fact that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is a piece of social welfare legislation, which was enacted to take care of the welfare of the children and to avoid their turning into hardened criminals.

The court also observed that the basic purpose of this legislation was to ensure that a child under the age of 18 some time coming in conflict with the law by committing an offence is to be tried in a manner and under such an environment, which take him to the path of reformation rather than allowing such children to mix up with criminals in the jail and themselves turning into hardened criminals. So, in this case legislative intent through purpose of the Act was kept in mind by the judiciary.

CONCLUSION

A statute is a will of legislature conveyed in the form of text. The original authority to make the laws lies within the hands of the legislature. Therefore, the legislature is the highest competent authority to make the laws. The laws are the strict rules and the guidelines made by the highest authority for anyone and everyone with the subordinate authority. Laws will be followed and obeyed to the best of its capacity if they are understood and interpreted in the right sense.

Interpretation or construction of a statute is an age-old process and as old as language. It is well settled principle of law that as the statute is an edict of the Legislature, the conventional way of interpreting or construing a statute is to seek the intention of legislature.

The intention of legislature assimilates two aspects; one aspect carries the concept of, meaning, i.e., what the word means and another aspect conveys the concept of purpose and, objector the, reason or, spirit pervading through the statute. The process of construction, therefore, combines both the literal and purposive approaches. However, necessity of interpretation would arise only where the language of a statutory provision is ambiguous, not clear or where two views are possible or where the provision gives a different meaning defeating the object of the statute.

Therefore, a statute is to be constructed according “to the intent of them who make it” and “the duty of is the judicature is to act upon the true intention of the legislature”. While this is true, the application of legislative intent only occurs as a secondary concern, if a statutory provision is open to more than one interpretation the court has to choose that interpretation which represents the true intention of the legislature. It is a well established rule that legislative intent comes into play only if the literal rendering of a statute leads to ambiguity or injustice. The Supreme Court of India has called this formulation the “cardinal rule of construction”. It is accepted in traditional pedagogy that legislative intent is binding on the courts in case of ambiguity and forms the basis of statutory construction.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Books

• Bhattacharyya Prof. T. Interpretation of Statutes, Central Law Agency. 2014

• Mathur DN, Interpretation of Statutes, Central Law Publication, 2013

• Langan P St. J, Maxwell on the interpretation of statutes, Lexi Nexis Butterworths

Wadhwa, Twelfth edition (2010).

Website

• www.lawnotes.in

• www.lawyersclubindia.com

• www.inbrief.co.uk

• https://www.iilsindia.com/blogs/golden-rule-of-interpretation/

• https://blog.ipleaders.in/rules-interpretation-statutes/#The_Golden_Rule

• https://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/samplechapter/e/l/s/c/ELS_C%20and%20M

_Chap%203.pdf


[1] Interpretation of Statutes, available at: http://www.ijtr.nic.in/articles/art21.pdf (visited on September 22, 2021).

[2] Binding Value of Legislative Intention, available at:  https://indianlawwatch.com/binding-value-of-legislative-intention/(visited on September 22, 2021).

[3] Importance of legislative intention in interpretation, available at: https://www.taxmanagementindia.com/visitor/detail_article.asp?ArticleID=1358 (visited on September 22, 2021).

[4] Prof. T. Bhattacharyya, The interpretation of Statutes (Central Law Agency, Allahabad, 10th edn, 2017).

[5] Ibid

[6] Prof. T. Bhattacharyya, The interpretation of Statutes (Central Law Agency, Allahabad, 10th edn, 2017).

[7] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The Golden Rule”, available at: https://iep.utm.edu/goldrule/ (visited on September 23, 2021).

[8] 2021 SCC RL.A.39

[9] [2009] 5 SCR 188

[10] The Legislature Didn’t Intend To Debar A Juvenile From Seeking Relief Of Pre-Arrest Bail’, Punjab & Haryana HC [Read Order]

[11] ‘Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, (Act 2 of 2016).

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