Read before reading law

2 min read

Under a democratic set up the power to make laws, a power to execute the laws, and power to interpret the laws, divided among three equally empowered bodies through the supreme constituting document i.e. constitution.
The three bodies which are also referred to as organs of the government are;

  • Legislature- function to make laws
  • Executive- function to execute the laws
  • Judiciary – function to interpret the laws

In Indian context, the power to legislate has been conferred on the parliament and respective state legislatures vide constitution of India. The Schedule VII further provides for the matters on which central and state legislature can enact the law. In its pursuit and through its wisdom when parliament makes laws, it is implicit that it represents the common will of the people of India. Parliament is the supreme body, which is conferred a power by the constitution of India to make laws i.e. to legislate.

Interpretation of Laws
In due observance of principal of division of powers, the power to interpret the laws has been bestowed upon the judiciary. The esteemed task of the judiciary is to find out the interpretation of laws which is concededly in consonance with the intention of the legislature. Hence in pursuit of interpreting the law judiciary endeavors to delve into the mind of the legislature and brings out the true intention of the legislature.
Fundamental rules in reading of law
Below are the certain very fundamental rules which one should adhere to indispensably while reading the law:

  • Object and the purpose of passing the legislation
  • Bare reading of the statute
  • Read each word of the statute
  • Statute should be read as a whole

Object and the purpose of passing the legislation

While reading the law and of course for its better understanding one should be aware with the purpose, object and surrounding circumstances in existence, which inclined the legislature for enacting of law. During the process of interpretation the legislative intent is decoded. A misunderstanding and non understanding of object and purpose of passing a statute would make a process of interpretation a futile and worthless effort.

Bare reading of the statute

The word of the statute is the best representatives, which declares the intention of the legislature. Here it would not be out of place to mention the words of Lord Tindal “ If the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous then no more can be necessary then to expound those words in their natural and ordinary sense”
Therefore ‘read the statute’ is the first foremost and fundamental. Only when reading of law results in absurdity or unobvious results recourse may be had to the other rules of interpretation.

Read each word

Read each word emanates from the Latin expression “ ut res megis valeat quam pareat” which means it is better to validate the things then to invalidate. Legislature in its wisdom put each and every word in a legislature after due deliberation ,investment of time and inclination. Hence, each and every word should be assigned a meaning in reference to the context in which it is used.
It would be worthwhile to mention the words of Lord Farewell “Unless the word so absolutely seamless that I could do nothing at all with them, I should be bound to find some meaning and not to declare them void for uncertainty.”
It is absolutely indispensible in pursuit of interpreting a statute to find a meaning of each and every word ,punctuation marks etc.

Read whole statute

A statute should be read as a whole to ascertain the correct intention of the legislature. Just reading a part in ignorance of the whole Act or other provisions would divorce the true meaning from the true intention of the law makers.
Lord Davey observed in the case of Canada Sugar refining company limited that “every clause of the statute to be construed with reference to the context and other provisions of the Act, so as ,as far as possible, to make it consistent with the whole of the statute.”

Thanks for reading.


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