Top 20 Landmark Judgements of Interpretation of Statute

Top 20 Landmark Judgements of Interpretation of Statute
Top 20 Landmark Judgements of Interpretation of Statute

 Top 20 Landmark Judgements of Interpretation of Statute



  1. S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay

Where in a case The appellant filed a complaint against the respondent, A.R. Antualy, a public servant being the Chief Minister of Maharashtra State under ss. 161, 165 I.P.C. and s. 5 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 (1947 Act) alleging abuse of office of Chief Minister, the issue as regard to interpretation of the act came before the court.

If the language is clear and unambiguous, no need of interpretation would arise. The 5 judge bench further observed that the question of construction arises only in the event of an ambiguity or the plain meaning of the words used in the Statute would be self defeating.


  1. Grasim Industries Ltd. v Collector of Customs, Bombay

The respondent imported four cases of hydrochloric acid synthesis unit of combustion chambers. The respondent claimed that the same are classifiable under Headings 84.13/84.17/84.59 of the Customs tariff Act, 1975  while the Revenue took the stand that they are classifiable under Headings 68. 01/16 (1) of the act on the ground that the articles made of graphite could not be assessed under Chapter 84 of the Act.

Here the court has explicitly observed that where the words are clear and there is no obscurity, and there is no ambiguity and the intention of the legislature is clearly conveyed, there is no scope for court to take upon itself the task of amending or altering the statutory provisions.


  1. District Mining Officer and others v Tata Iron & Steel Co. and another

The apex Court has rightly observed that it is a cardinal principle of construction that external aids are brought in by widening the concept of context as including not only other enacting provisions of the same statute provided its preamble, the existing state of law, other statutes in pari materia and the mischief which the statute was intended to remedy.


  1. Prabhakar Rao and others v State of A.P. and others

Where there was a conflict in regard to the retirement age as a specific time of the day was concerned. How it should be considered came before the court.

This is now a well settled principle of modern statutory construction that we can always have recourse to external aids to discover the object of the legislation. External aids are not ruled out, where internal aids are not forthcoming.


  1. P. Varghese v Income Tax Officer Ernakulam

The Supreme Court has stated that everything which is logically relevant should be admissible as interpretation of statute being an exercise in the ascertainment of meaning.


  1. Municipal board v State transport authority, Rajasthan

The Supreme Court held that literal interpretation must be made and hence rejected the application as invalid where the location of a bus stand was changed by the Regional Transport Authority and an application could be moved within 30 days of receipt of order of regional transport authority according to section 64 A of the Motor vehicles Act, 1939 but it was moved after 30 days on the contention that statute shall be read like 30 days from the knowledge of the order.


  1. Tata Consultancy Services v. State of A.P.

The question raised in this Appeal is whether the canned software sold by the Appellants can be termed to be “goods” and as such assessable to sales tax under the said Act where uncanned software was sold to the respondents.

Court observed that a literal construction would not be denied only because the consequences to comply with the same may lead to a penalty. The courts should not be over zealous in searching for ambiguities or obscurities in words which are plain.


  1. CIT v. Sundaradevi

It was held by the Apex Court that unless there is an ambiguity, it would not be open to the Court to depart from the normal rule of construction which is that the intention of the legislature should be primarily to gather from the words which are used. It is only when the words used are ambiguous that they would stand to be examined and considered on surrounding circumstances and constitutionally proposed practices.


  1. Suthendran v. Immigration Appeal Tribunal,

The word ‘a person who has a limited leave’ in Section 14(1) of the Immigration Act, 1971were construed as person should not be included “who has had” such limited leave and it was held that the section applied only to a person who at the time of lodging of his complaint was lawfully in the United Kingdom, in whose case, leave had not expired at the time of lodgment of an appeal.


  1. Pritipal Singh v. Union of India

Where in a criminal case the chargesheet was filed as per violations and provisions under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and the interpretation of the words were questioned, it was held that there is a presumption that the words are used in an Act of Parliament not loosely and inexactly but correctly and exactly.


  1. Heydon’s Case

Where the tenancy was established in return for agricultural services, which was something like a long-running lease with special privileges for each party and parcel was released to another man than the concerned man questions in regard to interpretation of the Suppression of Religious Houses Act 1535 came before the court.

Here, it was stated that there were four points to be taken into consideration when interpreting a statute:

  1. What was the common law before the making of the act?
  2. What was the “mischief and defect” for which the common law did not provide?
  3. What remedy the parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the commonwealth?
  4. What is the true reason of the remedy?


  1. Thomson v. Lord Clan Morris

The court said that in interpreting any statutory enactment regard must be had not only to the words used, but also to the history of the Act and the reasons which lead to its being passed.


  1. Union of India v. B.S. Aggarwal

The court held that an interpretation should be avoided if results in injustice,  hardship, injustice, inconvenience or anomaly and should be adopted if supports the sense of justice.


  1. Alembic Chemical Works v. Workmen

Where an industrial tribunal awarded more number of paid leaves to the workers than what Section 79(1) of Factories Act recommended. This was challenged by the appellant. The Supreme Court held that the enactment being awelfare legislation for the workers, had to be beneficially constructed in the favour of worker and thus, if the words are capable of two meanings, the one that gives benefit to the workers must be used.


  1. Siddeshwari Cotton Mills (P) Ltd v UOI

The court while interpreting the expression ‘any other process’ appearing along-with the words ‘bleaching, mercerizing, dyeing, printing, water-proofing, rubberizing, shrink-proofing, organic processing in section 2(f) of the Central Excise & Salt Act, 1944 with the aid of the principle of Ejusdem Generis has said that the foregoing words, which precede the expression ‘or any other process’ contemplate process, which import a change of a lasting nature must share one or the other of these incidents.


  1. National and Grindlays Bank v Municipal Corporation for Greater Bombay

Where the prolonged general strike of the textile workers in Bombay affected
financial position of all the textile mills in Mumbai and a policy decision
was taken by the Government of Maharashtra to permit construction of
residences in the industrial zone in the Bombay Metropolitan Region and When a
building constructed upon land previously assessed to Municipal lax is
demolished for construction of new building, is it open to the Municipal
Corporation to assess the rateable value of the land till the construction
of the building by taking the market value of the land was argued the principle of ‘contemporanea exposito’ was applied by the Supreme Court this case while construing Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888.


  1. Bengal Immunity Co. v. State of Bihar

Where A notice  under s. 13(5) of the Bihar Sales Tax Act, 194,7 was issued by the Bihar  Sales  Tax  authorities calling       upon  the  appellant company to  apply for registration and to  submit returns showing its turn over for a period between the 26th of January,  1950 and 30th September 1951, the apex court applied the mischief rule in construction of Article 286 of the Constitution of India. After referring to the state of law prevailing in the province prior to the constitution as also to the chaos and confusion that was brought about in inter-state trade and commerce by indiscriminate exercise of taxing powers by the different Provincial Legislatures founded on the theory of territorial nexus.


  1. Foster v. Diphwys Casson

The case involved a statute which stated that case or canister  shall be used to take explosives into a mine. Here the defendant used a cloth bag. The courts had to consider whether a cloth bag was within the definition. As per the rule of  noscitur a sociis, because parliament’s intention in using ‘case or container’ was referring to something of the same strength as a canister, it was held that the bag could not have been within the statutory definition.


  1. Kerala Cooperative Consumers’ Federation Ltd v. CIT

Here in this case while filing of IT by Body of Individuals, the cooperative society failed to include some persons, the court was required to interpret the meaning of the phrase ‘Body of Individuals’.

It has said that in construing the words ‘Body of Individuals’ occurring in section 2(31) of the Income Tax Act along-side the words ‘Association of Persons’, the words ‘Body of Individuals’ would have to be understood in the same background, context and meaning given to the words “Association of Persons’.


  1. Amarchandra Chakrabotry v. Collector of Excise

Where in a landmark case, the appellant challenged the Excise Collector’s order in a petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution,the court held that for interpretation of the statute the rule of Ejusdem Generis has to be applied keeping in mind that:

  • There is no indication of a different legislative intent.
  • The statute contains an enumeration of specific words.
  • The general item follows the enumeration.
  • That class or category is not exhausted by the enumeration.
  • The subjects of enumeration comprise a class or category.




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