The task of interpretation of a statutory enactment is not a mechanical task. It is
more than a mere reading of mathematical formulae because few words possess the precision
of mathematical symbols. It is an attempt to discover the intent of the Legislature from the
language used by it and it must always be remembered that language is at best an imperfect
instrument for the expression of human thought and, as pointed out by Lord Denning, it
would be idle to expect every statutory provision to be “drafted with divine prescience and
perfect clarity” of Judge Learned Hand: “ is true that the words used, even in their
literal sense, are the primary and ordinarily the most reliable source of interpreting the
meaning of any writing: be it a statute, a contract or anything else. But it is one of the surest
indexes of a mature and developed jurisprudence not to make a fortress out of the dictionary;
but to remember that statutes always have some purpose or object to accomplish, whose
sympathetic and imaginative discovery is the surest guide to their meaning.”
One must not adopt a strictly literal interpretation of any provision but must
construe its language having regard to the object and purpose which the Legislature had in
view in enacting that provision and in the context of the setting in which it occurs. One
cannot and should not ignore the context and the collocation of the provisions because, as
pointed out by judge Learned Hand in the most felicitous language:”....... the meaning of a
sentence may be more than that of the separate words, as a melody is more than the notes,
and no degree of particularity can ever obviate recourse to the setting in which all appears,
and which all collectively create.”
It is a well-recognised rule of construction that a statutory provision must be so
construed, if possible, that absurdity and mischief may be avoided. It is now a well-settled
rule of construction that where the...