Rules of Interpretation of Statutes: Literal, Mischief, Golden Rule

Interpretation of Statutes Rules: Literal, Mischief, Golden

This article on ‘Rules of Interpretation of Statutes: All You Need to Know‘ was written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.


The interpretation of presently enacted ordinances or laws is one of the judiciary’s most important or fundamental duties. The bounds set by the lawful frameworks—which comprise precise laws, rules, the Constitution, and authorized legislations—are scrupulously adhered to by the courts when they administer justice in a legal conflict. An array of statutes and rules make up the legal system in a democratic nation like India. The Legislature develops and drafts precise written ordinances and laws in accordance with parliamentary procedure. The underlying principles of these laws have been interpreted by the courts to provide justice in a legal case.

What is interpretation?

The Latin term “interpretari,” which implies to describe, deduce, or translate, is a reference to the English word “interpretation.” Interpretation is the procedure of giving words in a written text their common meaning to determine the true intended meaning. In other words, interpretation is the procedure used to determine the actual intent behind the words used in a legal document. The courts often use this procedure to affirm the detailed legislative objective.

Because the court’s goal is to meaningfully reference the law in each case rather than just reciting it is also utilized to specify the substantial purpose of any Act or document about the legislature’s substantial intents.

What is a statute?

The term “Statute” literally refers to legislation that has been properly adopted and recorded. In a legal sense, it refers to a legislative act that proclaims, prescribes, or orders something. Statutes define fundamental legal principles, which the court then applies to particular circumstances.

The Constitution, Central Acts, State Acts, Ordinances, Bye Laws, Rules, Regulations, Notifications, Circulars, Instructions, Directions, and it can all be classed as Statutes.

What is meant by the Interpretation of Statutes?

The judiciary is the branch of government that is most involved in interpreting laws out of the three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Judiciary’s principal duty is to interpret laws and determine their accurate interpretation by the framers’ original intent because it is the mechanism that carries out the legislature’s enactment of laws.

Salmond describes the procedure by which courts attempt to specify the meaning of legislation via the help of the authoritarian form which is stated as “interpretation or construction.”

Principles and rules of Interpretation of Statutes

The Courts have been given the important responsibility of interpreting the legislation and giving them a meaning that makes them practical and applicable. The courts cannot act arbitrarily when doing this vital task since this will result in a variety of interpretations that will cause conflict when delivering equal justice. As a result, the Courts developed a number of concepts and norms for interpretation that they occasionally apply to ensure uniformity.

The following primary rules of interpretation have been covered:

The Literal Rule

The first law of interpretation is the Literal Rule. This rule states that the terms employed in this book should be supplied or construed in accordance with their realistic or common meaning. A statute’s provision shall take effect after interpretation if its definition is entirely obvious and straightforward, nonetheless of any possible repercussions.

The essential tenet is that all requirements should be construed in conformity with grammar rules because whatever purpose the legislature may have had in creating them was stated verbally. The legislature’s objective can be assumed from the terms and terminology used, making it the unassailable rule of interpretation of laws.

This regulation states that the court has no responsibility to assume possible outcomes and is only required to give effect to a statute if its language is clear. The court’s only responsibility is to elucidate the law precisely as it stands; if any severe repercussions occur, the legislature will seek out an explanation and hold an eye out for it.

Case laws

1- Maqbool Hussain V. State of Bombay

In this case, the Indian citizen who filed the appeal ceased to function to disclose his tenancy of gold when he came to the airport. Gold was found in his possession during the course of his search; this was done in infringement of the government’s announcement and was confiscated in conformity with section 167(8) of the Sea Customs Act.

He was later charged in accordance with Section 8 of the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act of 1947. According to Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution, the appellant argued that this trial was unlawful. No person may face punishment or legal action more than once for the same offence, as stated in this article. Double jeopardy is applied in this situation.

The court presided that the Seas Act did not consist of a court or other judicial body. Thus, he wasn’t indicted earlier. As a result, his trial was deemed to be fair.

2- Manmohan Das V. Bishan Das

Section 3(1)(c) of the U.P. Control of Rent and Eviction Act, 1947, was the subject of the case’s interpretational dispute. A tenant was found to be in violation of the law in this instance if he produced unlawful accumulations and alterations to the building that were sensed as materially modifying the concessions or threatening to diminish their value. According to the appellant, the only thing that can be covered in the constitution, which diminishes the value of the property, and the word “or” should be analyzed as land.

According to the literal interpretation criterion, it was decided that the term “or” should signify that a reasonable person would read the event’s causes as an alternative and not as integrated.

Rules of Interpretation of Statutes: Literal, Mischief, Golden Rule
The Rules of Interpretation of Statutes: The Literal Rule, the Mischief Rule, and the Golden Rule

The Mischief Rule

Heydon’s lawsuit in 1584 is where the Mischief Rule first appeared. The objective of this ordinance must be taken into consideration while interpreting this statute, which is comprehended as the rule of purposive construction. Due to the fact that Lord Poke assessed it in Heydon’s case in 1584, it is known as Heydon’s rule.

The reason it is named the “mischief rule” is because the goal is to prevent mischief.

For a correct and certain interpretation of all statutes generally, it was determined in the Heydon case that four criteria must be met. These criteria are as follows:

  1. Before an act was created, what was the common law?
  2. What wrongdoing did the current law seek to address?
  3. What treatment did the Parliament resolve to implement to deal with the Commonwealth’s illness?
  4. The substantial cause of the remedy.

The Golden Rule

The reason it is referred to as the “golden rule” is that it provides an answer to every ambiguity issue. According to the regulation, we must originally analyze the statute directly. Nevertheless, if doing so result in any obscurity, injustice, inconvenience, adversity, or unfairness, the law must then be interpreted so that the legislation’s intended purpose is served.

The idea of reading the terms used in the statute according to their inherent meaning guides the literal rule. However, if pertaining to natural connotation results in any type of repulsion, absurdity, or adversity, the court must change the meaning of the amount that unfairness or imbecility was brought about, but not any further to stop the effect.

According to this rule, the outcomes and consequences of interpretation should convey much more weight because they furnish data about the authentic aim of the legislator and the connotation behind the phrases it employed. Sometimes when interpreting this rule, the interpretation may be completely at odds with the exact rule, but it will always be explained by the golden rule. Here, it is presumed that precise objects are not what the legislature aimed at. Any such interpretation that concerns unpredictable results must therefore be denied.


The process of interpretation is ongoing and is essential to how the Courts operate daily. The ideas and guidelines for interpretation have not been officially outlined or declared anywhere; rather, they have developed over time as a result of court precedent. These guidelines offer a uniform foundation for interpreting a statute’s sections, subsections, parts, and other subdivisions. To make rulings that reflect the genuine intent of the legislature, the courts must operate within this coherent framework.

Therefore, to ensure an efficient and consistent application of the law and prevent a miscarriage of justice, legislation should be construed by the framework of principles and regulations that has been developed. To decide the case and deliver justice, the courts should use the most appropriate rule of interpretation from the many that have been developed.