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Report No. 60

2.7. Not possible to codify rules-Acharya's suggestion not accepted.-

It is obvious that all "rules of interpretation" cannot be codified. Some rules are only guidelines, as we have already stated1. A suggestion was made by the later Professor Acharya in his Tagore Law Lectures on Codification in British India2, that the scope of the General Clauses Act should be extended so as to make it a comprehensive code on the interpretation of statutes. This suggestion is, no doubt, attractive at first sight; but a close scrutiny will reveal its impracticability. It is not possible to incorporate, in an Interpretation Act, the rules of interpretation enunciated in the text books on the subject. One of the main reasons for having an Interpretation Act is to facilitate the task of the draftsman in preparing parliamentary legislation. The courts also have recourse to Interpretation Acts to interpret statutes; but they do not confine themselves to these Acts. They certainly take the aid of accepted rules of interpretation as laid down in decided cases.

Moreover, a certain degree of elasticity is necessary in this branch of the law. Rules of construction of statutes are not static. Aims and objects of legislation will be better served by appropriate judicial interpretation of the law, rather than by rigid provisions in the laws themselves. At present, Judges have a certain amount of latitude in the matter, which enables them to do justice, after taking into consideration the nature and character of each statute. If the rules of construction are given a statutory form, the consequential rigidity in this branch of the law is likely to do more harm than good.

1. Chapter 1, supra.

2. Acharya Codification in British India, pp. 189, 191.

2.8. For example, the maxim-"Expressio unius exclusio alterius"-has been thus commented upon by Max Radin1:

"So far from being logical, as some courts have called it, it illustrates one of the most fatuously sample of logical fallacies, the 'illicit major', long the pons asinorum of school-boys2. And yet, in a widely used cyclopaedia3 there are at least seven hundred cases cited in which the maxim has been applied or explained.

"It has been called an axiom by the House of Lords, and it has been said of it that no maxim is of more general and uniform application.4 Yet, in the same case in which the House of Lords called it axiomatic5 it was disregarded; and the first case of its 'application cited in the Corpus juris is a case in the United States Supreme Court in which it was rejected."6

How various and variable such considerations are is graphically illustrated by a collection of the various canons of construction by Karl Llewellyn and Charles Driscoll7. Each rule of construction of statutes, it is stated, is answered by a counter-rule. Each thrust is met by a parry. Some rules of law can be fixed and certain, but it is clear, as Aristotle realised8, that there is a "whole class of matters which cannot be decided properly by rules of law". To meet this difficulty9, "Law trains the holders of office expressly in its spirit, and then sets them to decide and settle those residuary issues 'as justly as in them lies'10".

1. Max Radin Statutory Interpretation, (1929-1930) 43 Harvard Law Review 863, 875.

2. Cf. Jevons Elementary Lessons in Logic (1918), 132.

3. (1921) 25 Corpus Juris 220.

4. See Sounders v. Evans, (1861) 8 HL Cas 721 (727).

5. Sounders v. Evans, (1861) 8 HL Cas 721.

6. United States v. Barnes, (1912) 222 US 513.

7. K.N. Llewellyn Bettetion, (1950) 3 Vanderbilt Law Review 395, 401-406.

8. Aristotle Politics, III, XV, S. 6.

9. B.E. King Review of Levi's Introduction to Legal Reasoning, 1953 Cam LJ 126.

10. Aristotle Politics, III, XVI, S. 5.

General Clauses Act, 1897 Back

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