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Report No. 183

In Santa Singh v State of Punjab, AIR 1976 SC 2386, Supreme Court observed:

"It was Mr. Justice Holmes who pointed out in his inimitable style that, 'a word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged', it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used."

(para 4)

This kind of rule that the meaning of the words may get changed with the passage of time cannot be expressed in legislative form. While interpreting a provision, it is not proper for the court to take a mechanical or mathematical meaning of a word. The Law Commission in its 60th Report has observed, in this regard:

"2.12 It is of course, well recognized that interpretation is not merely a process of spelling out the meaning by set guidelines. Sometimes, it has to partake of the character of law making. Interpretation is not mathematics, where the answer given by every person to the particular mathematical problem must tally with each other if the answer are correct. As we shall show later, a certain amount of latitude is left to those who have to interpret and to this extent, interpretation resembles law making."

The Supreme Court in Hariprasad Shivshankar Shukla v. A.D. Divelkar, AIR 1957 SC 121, has referred with approval the following passage from an American decision (Great Northern Rly. Co. v United States of America, (1942) 315 US 262):

"We are not limited to lifeless words of the statute and formalistic canons of construction in search for the intent of Congress (Parliament in our case)".

It was observed in Distt. Mining Officer v. Tata Iron and Steel Co., (2001) 7 SCC 358 that a bare mechanical interpretation of the words and application of legislative intent devoid of concept or purpose will reduce most of the remedial and beneficent legislation to futility.

A continuum on the General Clauses Act, 1897 with special reference to the admissibility and codification of external aids to interpretation of statutes Back

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