Rai Bareja and another Vs. Punjab National
Bank & Ors  Insc 913 (6 December 2006)
B. Sinha & Markandey Katju
out of Special Leave Petition(Civil) Nos. 22058-22059/2005) MARKANDEY KATJU, J.
appeal has been filed against the impugned judgment and order dated 26.5.2005
of the Punjab & Haryana High Court in Execution Petition No. 1-L of 1999 by
which the execution proceeding was transferred to the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Chandigarh
(hereinafter referred to as the 'Tribunal'), for being disposed of in
accordance with law.
learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.
facts of the case are that on a Company Petition No. 57 of 1983 M/s. S.P. Nagrath
& Co. vs. M/s. Bareja Knipping Fasteners Ltd., the High Court vide order
dated 23.10.1983 ordered winding up of the Company and an Official Liquidator
was appointed who took over possession of the properties of the Company.
respondent-Bank filed a Suit (Company Petition No. 46 of 1984) for recovery of Rs.
14,53,577/- with pendente lite and future interest.
preliminary decree for recovery of Rs. 19,07,800/- with future interest @ 12%
per annum was passed by the High Court in favour of the decree-holder Bank, the
respondent herein, on 2.12.1985 in Company Petition No. 46 of 1984.
a decree was passed in favour of the Bank on 15.1.1987 in Company Application
No. 115 of 1986.
aforesaid final decree dated 15.1.1987 stated as under:
is hereby ordered and decreed that the mortgaged/pledged/hypothecated
properties in the aforesaid preliminary decree mentioned or sufficient part
thereof be sold, and that for the purpose of such sale the plaintiff/petitioner
shall produce before the Court or such officer as appointed, all documents in
his possession or power relating to the mortgage properties.
is hereby ordered and decreed that the money realized by such sale shall be
paid in the Court and shall be duly applied (after deduction therefrom of
expenses of the sale) in the payment of the amount payable to the
plaintiff/petitioner under aforesaid preliminary decree and under any further
orders that may have been passed in this petition and in payment of any amount
which the Court may have adjudged due to the plaintiff/petitioner for such
costs of the petition including costs of this application and such costs,
charges and expenses as may be payable under Rule 10 together with such
subsequent interest as may be payable under Rule 11 of Order XXXIV of the first
Schedule to Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and that the balance, if any, shall
be paid to the defendants/respondents or other persons entitled to receive the
same." Under Article 136 to the Schedule of the Limitation Act, 1963 the
period for applying for execution of any decree is 12 years from the date when
the decree becomes enforceable. Since in the present case the final decree was
passed and became enforceable on 15.1.1987, the period of limitation for filing
an execution application expired on 15.1.1999.
present case, the Bank filed three Execution Petitions. The first one, being
Execution Petition No. 14-L of 1987, was dismissed on 8.11.1990 by the
list of the property sought to be attached has been filed.
application is dismissed. The petitioner may, however, file a fresh execution
application in accordance with law." It appears that a second Execution
Petition thereafter was filed in 1994 being Execution Petition No. 3-L of 1994
by which the decree holder bank sought attachment and sale of properties which
did not belong to the judgment debtors. After contest by the objectors, this
second Execution Petition was dismissed by a Learned Single Judge of the High
Court on 18.8.1994 holding that the decree passed against the Company cannot be
satisfied by attachment and sale of properties belonging to other Companies, as
these other Companies are different and distinct juristic personalities with
different set of shareholders.
on 4.9.1998, the respondent-bank filed another Company Petition No. 236 of 1998
under Section 446 of the Companies Act, 1956 read with Rule 117 of the
Companies (Court) Rules, 1959 seeking leave of the Company Court to commence
the Execution proceedings before the Tribunal which had come into existence in
1993 under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act,
1993 (hereinafter referred to as 'RDB Act'). That petition was allowed by the Company Court vide order dated 18.12.1998 stating
"Learned counsel for the parties are agreed that petitioner be granted
leave to file execution petition in this Court." The decree-holder Bank
(respondent in this appeal), then filed a third Execution Petition No. 1 of
1999 dated 11.01.1999 against M/s. Bareja Knipping Fasteners Limited through
the Official Liquidator, without impleading the appellants and Shri K.M.Bareja
as parties to the Execution Petition. On this third Execution Petition, the
High Court on 1.4.1999 passed the following order:
is present on behalf of the petitioner. Counsel for the Official Liquidator
submits that the decree has already been executed against the assets and
properties of the Company. He further submits that no assets of the Company,
moveable or immoveable, are available with the Official Liquidator. As such,
there can be hardly any execution against the Company.
stands disposed of. Liberty to file proper petition against the
other judgment debtors in accordance with law is granted as they have not been impleaded
as parties in the Memo of Parties either of the execution petition of that of
the application." Thereafter, on 7.4.1999, the Bank instead of filing a
petition as directed by the High Court, filed Company Application No. 173 of
1999 for restoration of the Execution Petition No. 1 of 1999 along with a fresh
Memo of Parties before the High Court. The High Court issued notice on this
Application and then on 22.7.1999 recalled the order dated 1.4.1999.
3.1.2005, the decree-holder Bank filed Company Application No. 55 of 2005 under
Rule 9 of the Company (Court) Rules, 1959 read with Sections 17 and 18 of RDB
Act for transfer of the Execution Petition to the Tribunal. The appellant filed
a reply stating that the High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain this
Application. However by the impugned order dated 26.5.2005 the High Court
transferred the Execution Petition pending before it to the Debt Recovery
aforesaid order dated 26.5.2005, the High Court observed:
doubt, procedure for transfer of execution proceedings as mentioned in the RDB
Act is applicable only with regard to proceedings pending on the relevant dated
i.e. 24.6.1993 and there is no provision for transfer of application filed
after the said date. There is, however, order dated 18.12.1998 on record
whereby the parties consented that the petitioner may be allowed to file
execution petition in this Court. In view of judgment of the Apex Court in Allahabad Bank (supra), this
Court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application for execution. The
question is whether in exercise of inherent jurisdiction of this Court,
execution petition could be transferred to the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Chandigarh, as prayed for by the
powers of the Court are in addition to the powers specifically conferred. The
same can be exercised for advancing ends of justice, subject to the condition
that exercise of such powers is not in conflict with express provisions of the
statute. Learned counsel for the judgment-debtor is unable to show any decision
or principle as to why inherent power cannot be invoked in the present case, to
achieve the ends of justice.
is no express or implied provision against exercise of such a power, in a
situation which has arisen in the present case.
C.A. No. 55 of 2005 is allowed and execution proceedings are transferred to the
Debt Recovery Tribunal, Chandigarh for being disposed of in accordance
with law. Learned counsel for the decree-holder has made a statement that he
wishes to proceed against the guarantors in execution proceedings. C.A. No. 415
of 1999 seeking dismissal of execution application, is accordingly,
dismissed." Learned counsel for the appellant submitted that the aforesaid
order was wholly without jurisdiction.
counsel for the appellant has invited our attention to Sections 17, 18, 24 and
31of the RDB Act. These provisions are as follows:
powers and authority of Tribunals.
Tribunal shall exercise, on and from the appointed day, the jurisdiction,
powers and authority to entertain and decide applications from the banks and
financial institutions for recovery of debts due to such banks and financial
Appellate Tribunal shall exercise, on and from the appointed day, the
jurisdiction, powers and authority to entertain appeals against any order made,
or deemed to have been made, by a Tribunal under this Act.
Bar of jurisdiction. On and from the appointed day, no Court or other
authority shall have, or be entitled to exercise, any jurisdiction, powers or
authority (except the Supreme Court, and a High Court exercising jurisdiction
under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution) in relation to the matters
specified in Section 17.
Limitation. The provisions of the Limitation Act, 1963, shall, as far as may
be, apply to an application made to a Tribunal.
Transfer of pending cases.
Every suit or other proceeding pending before any court immediately before the
date of establishment of a Tribunal under this Act, being a suit or proceeding
the cause of action whereon it is based is such that it would have been, if it
had arisen after such establishment, within the jurisdiction of such Tribunal,
shall stand transferred on that date to such Tribunal.
that nothing in this sub-section shall apply to any appeal pending as aforesaid
before any Court.
Where any suit or other proceeding stands transferred from any court to a
Tribunal under sub-section (1), -
the court shall, as soon as may be after such transfer, forward the records of
such suit or other proceeding to the Tribunal; and
the Tribunal may, on receipt of such records, proceed to deal with such suit or
other proceeding, so far as may be, in the same manner as in the case of an
application made under section 19 from the stage which was reached before such
transfer or from any earlier stage or de novo as the Tribunal may deem
fit." Admittedly, the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Chandigarh was established in 1993 and hence
after 1993 the exclusive jurisdiction regarding recovery of debts pertaining to
which the RDB Act applies is with the Tribunal.
opinion, the impugned order of the High Court dated 26.5.2005, transferring the
Execution Petition pending before it to the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Chandigarh
was clearly beyond the scope of Section 31 of the RDB Act because Section 31
states that only suits or other proceeding pending before the Court immediately
before the establishment of the Tribunal under the Act, stand transferred to
the Tribunal. Since, admittedly the Tribunal in the present case, had been
established in 1993, and no proceeding was pending before it on the date when
it was established, no transfer could take place under Section 31 of the RDB
Act. At any event, the third Execution Petition which was transferred by the
impugned order was filed by the respondent-Bank on 11.1.1999, i.e. much after
the Tribunal had been established. Hence obviously there could be no such
transfer to the Tribunal under Section 31 of the RDB Act. Apart from Section
31, there is no other provision for transferring a suit or other proceeding
pending before any Court to the Tribunal. Hence, the impugned order dated
26.5.2005 was clearly illegal and without jurisdiction.
this connection learned counsel for the appellant has relied on the decision of
this Court in Allahabad Bank vs. Canara Bank & Anr. 2000(4) SCC 406. In the
aforesaid decision this Court observed that the word `proceedings' in Section
31 of the RDB Act includes `execution proceedings' pending before a civil court
before the commencement of the Act. In para 50 of the aforesaid decision this
Court observed that the RDB Act, 1993 confers exclusive jurisdiction on the
Debt Recovery Tribunal both at the stage of adjudication of the claim under
Section 17 of the Act as well as execution of the claim. The Court observed
that the provisions of the RDB Act, 1993 are to an extent inconsistent with the
provisions of the Companies Act, 1956, and the latter Act has to yield to the
provisions of the former. This position holds good during the pendency of the
winding-up petition against the debtor company and also after a winding-up
order is passed. The Court further held that no leave of the Company Court is necessary under Section 446 of
the Companies Act, 1956 for initiating or continuing the proceedings under the
RDB Act, 1993.
aforesaid decision this Court also upheld the view of some of the High Courts
that the Company Act is a general statute, and hence the RDB Act which is a
special Act, overrides the general statute. At any event, in view of Section 34
of the RDB Act, the said Act will prevail to the extent of inconsistency over
the Companies Act.
in the aforesaid decision this Court has held that even with regard to
execution the jurisdiction under the RDB Act is exclusive, we cannot agree with
the view taken by the High Court merely because the appellant had given his
consent to the transfer of the Execution Petition to the Tribunal. It is well
settled in law that consent cannot confer jurisdiction.
Bank vs. Canara Bank & Anr.(supra) (vide para 23) this Court observed :
our opinion, the prescription of an exclusive Tribunal both for adjudication
and execution is a procedure clearly inconsistent with realization of these
debts in any other manner." Since Section 24 of the RDB Act applies the
provisions of the Limitation Act, 1963, to applications filed before the
Tribunal, and since Article 136 of the Limitation Act provides a period of
limitation of 12 years for filing an Execution Petition, hence now no such
application can be filed since that period of 12 years expired on 15.1.1999.
Hence, in our opinion the debt became time barred after 15.1.1999.
counsel for the respondent-Bank relied on Section 446(1) of the Companies Act
which states that when a winding-up order is passed or the official liquidator
is appointed as a provisional liquidator, no suit or other legal proceeding
shall be commenced, or if pending at the date of the winding-up order, shall be
proceeded with against the company, except by leave of the court and subject to
such terms as the court may impose.
counsel for respondent-Bank relied on Sub-section (3) of Section 446 of the
Companies Act, 1956, which states:
Any suit or proceeding by or against the company which is pending in any Court
other than that in which the winding up of the company is proceeding may,
notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in
force, be transferred to and disposed of by that Court." In this
connection, it may be mentioned that Section 446(3) of the Companies Act was
omitted by Companies (Second Amendment) Act, 2002 and evidently the High Court
has overlooked this Amendment. As a result in our opinion the High Court has no
power to transfer the Execution Petition to the Debts Recovery Tribunal. At any
event as held in Allahabad Bank vs. Canara Bank & Anr.(supra), Section 446
has no application once the RDB Act applies because Section 34 expressly gives
overriding effect to the provisions of the RDB Act. Also, the RDB Act is a
special law and hence will prevail over the general law in the Companies Act as
held in Allahabad Bank vs. Canara Bank & Anr.(supra).
this connection, we may mention that in the impugned order dated 26.5.2005 the
High Court has, while admitting that in view of the decision of this Court in Allahabad
Bank vs. Canara Bank & Anr.(supra), it had no jurisdiction to deal with the
execution application, it has, however, in the same order relied on the so
called "inherent powers" of the Court. In our opinion there are no
such inherent powers of the Court of transferring the Execution Proceedings to
the Debt Recovery Tribunal, Chandigarh.
powers there are of transfer of proceedings to the Tribunal are contained in
Section 31 of the RDB Act, and no transfer is permissible de hors Section 31.
Hence, we respectfully disagree with the High Court that it has inherent powers
apart from Section 31 for transferring the Execution Petition to the Debt
counsel for the respondent-Bank submitted that it will be very unfair if the
appellant who is a guarantor of the loan, and director of the Company which
took the loan, avoids paying the debt. While we fully agree with the learned
counsel that equity is wholly in favour of the respondent- Bank, since
obviously a Bank should be allowed to recover its debts, we must, however,
state that it is well settled that when there is a conflict between law and
equity, it is the law which has to prevail, in accordance with the Latin maxim
'dura lex sed lex', which means 'the law is hard, but it is the law'. Equity
can only supplement the law, but it cannot supplant or override it.
in Madamanchi Ramappa & Anr. vs. Muthaluru Bojjappa AIR 1963 SC 1633 (vide para
12) this Court observed :
is administered in Courts is justice according to law, and considerations of
fair play and equity however important they may be, must yield to clear and
express provisions of the law."..
Council for Indian School Certificate Examination vs. Isha Mittal & Anr. 2000(7)
SCC 521 (vide para 4) this Court observed:
of equity cannot prevail and do not permit a High Court to pass an order
contrary to the law." Similarly in P.M. Latha & Anr. vs. State of Kerala
& Ors. 2003(3) SCC 541 (vide para 13) this Court observed:
and law are twin brothers and law should be applied and interpreted equitably,
but equity cannot override written or settled law."..
R. Bhattad & Ors. vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr. 2003(5) SCC 413 (vide
para 73) this Court observed:
is now well settled that when there is a conflict between law and equity the
former shall prevail."..
in Nasiruddin & Ors. vs. Sita Ram Agarwal 2003(2) SCC 577 (vide para 35)
this Court observed :
a case where the statutory provision is plain and unambiguous, the court shall
not interpret the same in a different manner, only because of harsh
consequences arising therefrom." ..
in E. Palanisamy vs. Palanisamy (Dead) by Lrs. & Ors. 2003(1) SCC 123 (vide
para 5) this Court observed :
considerations have no place where the statute contained express
India House vs. Kishan N. Lalwani 2003(9) SCC 393 (vide para 7) this Court held
period of limitation statutorily prescribed has to be strictly adhered to and
cannot be relaxed or departed from by equitable considerations."..
supplied) In the present case, while equity is in favour of the respondent-Bank,
the law is in favour of the appellant, since we are of the opinion that the
impugned order of the High Court is clearly in violation of Section 31 of the
RDB Act, and moreover the claim is time-barred in view of Article 136 of the
Limitation Act read with Section 24 of the RDB Act. We cannot but comment that
it is the Bank itself which is to blame because after its first Execution
Petition was dismissed on 23.8.1990 it should have immediately thereafter filed
a second Execution Petition, but instead it filed the second Execution Petition
only in 1994 which was dismissed on 18.8.1994.
again, the Bank waited for 5 years and it was only on 1.4.1999 that it filed
its third Execution Petition. We fail to understand why the Bank waited from
1990 to 1994 and again from 1994 to 1999 in filing its Execution Petitions.
Hence, it is the Bank which is responsible for not getting the decree executed
well in time.
counsel for the respondent-Bank then submitted that a purposive interpretation
should be put on Section 31 of the RDB Act so that the bank can recover its
dues. He relied on the decisions of this Court in Hindustan Lever Ltd. vs. Ashok
Vishnu Kate and others 1995 (6) SCC 326 (vide para 41 & 42), Administrator,
Municipal Corporation, Bilaspur vs. Dattatraya Dahankar and another 1992 (1)
SCC 361 (vide para 4), Directorate of Enforcement vs. Deepak Mahajan and
another 1994 (3) SCC 440 (vide para 31), etc. We are afraid we cannot accept
this contention. In fact, in Allahabad Bank vs. Canara Bank (supra), the
argument that a purposive interpretation should be put on the provisions of the
RDB Act has been specifically rejected (vide para 34).
M/s. Hiralal Ratanlal vs. STO, AIR 1973 SC 1034, this Court observed:
construing a statutory provision the first and foremost rule of construction is
the literary construction. All that the Court has to see at the very outset is
what does the provision say. If the provision is unambiguous and if from the
provision the legislative intent is clear, the Court need not call into aid the
other rules of construction of statutes. The other rules of construction are
called into aid only when the legislative intent is not clear." (emphasis
supplied) It may be mentioned in this connection that the first and foremost
principle of interpretation of a statute in every system of interpretation is
the literal rule of interpretation. The other rules of interpretation e.g. the
mischief rule, purposive interpretation etc. can only be resorted to when the
plain words of a statute are ambiguous or lead to no intelligible results or if
read literally would nullify the very object of the statute. Where the words of
a statute are absolutely clear and unambiguous, recourse cannot be had to the
principles of interpretation other than the literal rule, vide Swedish Match AB
vs. Securities and Exchange Board, India, AIR 2004 SC 4219.
held in Prakash Nath Khanna vs. C.I.T. 2004 (9) SCC 686, the language employed
in a statute is the determinative factor of the legislative intent. The
legislature is presumed to have made no mistake. The presumption is that it
intended to say what it has said. Assuming there is a defect or an omission in
the words used by the legislature, the Court cannot correct or make up the
deficiency, especially when a literal reading thereof produces an intelligible
result, vide Delhi Financial Corporation vs. Rajiv Anand 2004 (11) SCC 625.
Where the legislative intent is clear from the language, the Court should give
effect to it, vide Government of Andhra Pradesh vs. Road Rollers Owners Welfare
Association 2004(6) SCC 210, and the Court should not seek to amend the law in
the grab of interpretation.
stated by Justice Frankfurter of the U.S. Supreme Court (see 'Of Law & Men:
Papers and Addresses of Felix Frankfurter'):
within their area of choice the courts are not at large.
are confined by the nature and scope of the judicial function in its particular
exercise in the field of interpretation.
are under the constraints imposed by the judicial function in our democratic
society. As a matter of verbal recognition certainly, no one will gainsay that
the function in construing a stature is to ascertain the meaning of words used
by the legislature. To go beyond it is to usurp a power which our democracy has
lodged in its elected legislature. The great judges have constantly admonished
their brethren of the need for discipline in observing the limitations. A judge
must not rewrite a statute, neither to enlarge nor to contract it. Whatever
temptations the statesmanship of policy-making might wisely suggest,
construction must eschew interpolation and evisceration. He must not read in by
way of creation. He must not read out except to avoid patent nonsense or
internal contradiction." As observed by Lord Granworth in Grundy v. Pinniger,
(1852) 1 LJ Ch 405:
'To adhere as closely as possible to the literal meaning of the words used, is
a cardinal rule from which if we depart we launch into a sea of difficulties
which it is not easy to fathom." In other words, once we depart from the
literal rule, then any number of interpretations can be put to a statutory
provision, each Judge having a free play to put his own interpretation as he
likes. This would be destructive of judicial discipline, and also the basic
principle in a democracy that it is not for the Judge to legislate as that is
the task of the elected representatives of the people. Even if the literal
interpretation results in hardship or inconvenience, it has to be followed (see
G.P. Singh's Principles of Statutory Interpretations, 9th Edn. pp 45-49). Hence
departure from the literal rule should only be done in very rare cases, and
ordinarily there should be judicial restraint in this connection.
Privy Council observed (per Viscount Simonds, L.C.):
and again, this Board has insisted that in construing enacted words we are not
concerned with the policy involved or with the results, injurious or otherwise,
which may follow from giving effect to the language used."(see Emperor v. Benoarilal
Sarma, AIR 1945 PC 48, pg. 53).
observed by this Court in CIT vs. Keshab Chandra Mandal, AIR 1950 SC 265:
or inconvenience cannot alter the meaning of the language employed by the
Legislature if such meaning is clear on the face of the statute".
rules of interpretation other than the literal rule would come into play only
if there is any doubt with regard to the express language used or if the plain
meaning would lead to an absurdity. Where the words are unequivocal, there is
no scope for importing any rule of interpretation vide Pandian Chemicals Ltd.
vs. C.I.T. 2003(5) SCC 590.
only where the provisions of a statute are ambiguous that the Court can depart
from a literal or strict construction vide Narsiruddin vs. Sita Ram Agarwal AIR
2003 SC 1543. Where the words of a statute are plain and unambiguous effect
must be given to them vide Bhaiji vs. Sub- Divisional Officer, Thandla 2003(1)
doubt in some exceptional cases departure can be made from the literal rule of
the interpretation, e.g. by adopting a purposive construction, Heydon's
mischief rule, etc. but that should only be done in very exceptional cases.
Ordinarily it is not proper for the Court to depart from the literal rule as
that would really be amending the law in the garb of interpretation, which is
not permissible vide J.P. Bansal vs. State of Rajasthan & Anr. AIR 2003 SC
1405, State of Jharkhand & Anr. vs. Govind Singh JT
2004(10) SC 349 etc.. It is for the legislature to amend the law and not the
Court vide State of Jharkhand & Anr. vs. Govind Singh JT 2004(10) SC 349.
In Jinia Keotin vs. K.S. Manjhi, 2003 (1) SCC 730, this Court observed:
Court cannot legislate.under the grab of interpretation".
there should be judicial restraint in this connection, and the temptation to do
judicial legislation should be eschewed by the Courts. In fact, judicial
legislation is an oxymoron.
Shakti Co-operative Housing Society vs. Swaraj Developers AIR 2003 SC 2434,
this Court observed:
is a well settled principle in law that the Court cannot read anything into a
statutory provision which is plain and unambiguous. A statute is an edict of
the legislature. The language employed in a statute is the determinative factor
of legislative intent." In our opinion, Section 31 is plain and
unambiguous and it clearly says that only those suits or proceedings pending
before a Court shall stand transferred to the Tribunal which were pending on
the date when the Tribunal was established.
learned counsel for the respondent submitted that we have to see the
legislative intent when we interpret Section 31. In our opinion, resort can be
had to the legislative intent for the purpose of interpreting a provision of
law when the language employed by the legislature is doubtful or ambiguous or
leads to some absurdity. However, when the language is plain and explicit and
does not admit of any doubt, the Court cannot by reference to an assumed
legislative intent expand or alter the plain meaning of an expression employed
by the legislature vide Ombalika Das vs. Hulisa Shaw, 2002 (4) SCC 539.
the language is clear, the intention of the legislature has to be gathered from
the language used vide Grasim Industries Limited vs. Collector of Customs 2002
(4) SCC 297 and Union of India vs. Hamsoli Devi 2002 (7) SCC 273.
Union of India and another vs. Hansoli Devi and others 2002(7) SCC (vide para
9), this Court observed:
is a cardinal principle of construction of a statute that when the language of
the statute is plain and unambiguous, then the court must give effect to the
words used in the statute and it would not be open to the courts to adopt a
hypothetical construction on the grounds that such construction is more
consistent with the alleged object and policy of the Act." The function of
the Court is only to expound the law and not to legislate vide District Mining
Officer vs. Tata Iron and Steel Company 2002 (7) SCC 358. If we accept the
interpretation canvassed by the learned counsel for the respondent we will
really be legislating because in the guise of interpretation we will be really
amending Section 31.
VKSSS Maryadit vs. State of Maharashtra AIR 2001 SC 1980, this Court observed:
is a cardinal principle of interpretation of statute that the words of a
statute must be understood in their natural, ordinary or popular sense and
construed according to their grammatical meaning, unless such construction
leads to some absurdity or unless there is something in the context or in the object
of the statute to suggest to the contrary. The golden rule is that the words of
a statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning. It is yet another
rule of construction that when the words of the statute are clear, plain and
unambiguous, then the Courts are bound to give effect to that meaning,
irrespective of the consequences. It is said that the words themselves best
declare the intention of the law-giver. The Courts are adhered to the principle
that efforts should be made to give meaning to each and every word used by the
legislature and it is not a sound principle of construction to brush aside
words in a statute as being inapposite surpluses, if they can have a proper
application in circumstances conceivable within the contemplation of the
same view has been taken by this Court in S. Mehta vs. State of Maharashtra
2001 (8) SCC 257 (vide para 34) and Patangrao Kaddam vs. Prithviraj Sajirao Yadav
Deshmugh AIR 2001 SC 1121.
literal rule of interpretation really means that there should be no
interpretation. In other words, we should read the statute as it is, without
distorting or twisting its language.
mention here that the literal rule of interpretation is not only followed by
Judges and lawyers, but it is also followed by the lay man in his ordinary
life. To give an illustration, if a person says "this is a pencil",
then he means that it is a pencil; and it is not that when he says that the
object is a pencil, he means that it is a horse, donkey or an elephant. In
other words, the literal rule of interpretation simply means that we mean what
we say and we say what we mean. If we do not follow the literal rule of
interpretation, social life will become impossible, and we will not understand
each other. If we say that a certain object is a book, then we mean it is a
book. If we say it is a book, but we mean it is a horse, table or an elephant,
then we will not be able to communicate with each other. Life will become
impossible. Hence, the meaning of the literal rule of interpretation is simply
that we mean what we say and we say what we mean.
present case, we are clearly of the opinion that the literal rule applies, and
the other rules have no application to interpreting Section 31, since the
language of Section 31 is plain and clear, and cannot be said to be ambiguous
or resulting in some absurdity.
view of the above, we are clearly of the opinion that the recovery in question
is time-barred and it is hereby quashed. The impugned order of the High Court
is set aside. The appeals are accordingly allowed. No costs.