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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM


Author: B.A.Pratheshta


Understanding the law is very much important when it comes to the implementation of the law. Interpretation should be made in the correct sense as to the intention of the statute makers so that the law is incorporated to those and to the purpose for what the law was made. Interpretation of statutes has become a significant part of learning the law. The word interpretation is derived from the Latin word “interpretari”, which means to explicate, explain, know, or decode the language. Interpretation is said to be the art of knowing the real law and there are certain rules of interpretation that need to be taken into consideration. This article will be dealing with few maxims used while interpreting a statute.


Sometimes few words or phrases may have two or more meanings. Choosing of correct meaning is important for proper implementation. When such kinds of difficulties arise, the words or the phrase’s meaning is determined by its surrounding words or accompanying words. Maxwell while using this maxim in his,‘The Interpretation of Statutes’, he described it in the following words When two or more words susceptible of analogous meaning are coupled together, they are understood to be used in their cognate sense taking colors from each other.” [1]


The words used in the statutes are to be read carefully. Sometimes the provision or the law may haveintended specific meaning and the word used in the statutes may have a wide meaning in common usage. In such cases, only the specific meaning is to be taken and not the widened meaning. The Black’s Law Dictionary defines this law maxim as follows, A canon of construction that when a general word or phrase follows a list of specifics, the general word or phrase will be interpreted to include only items of the same type as those listed.[2]. The literal meaning of the maxim is that, “of the same kind”. The maxim takes its literal meaning to be used in the construction.


As seen before in the maxim of ejusdem generis, sometimes the provisions in the statute may give two different complete construction meanings. In these cases, the meaning which fails the intent of the statute or contradicts other provisions of the legislature should be avoided and the meaning which coincides with other provisions of the statute should be taken into consideration. The literal meaning of the maxim means, “it is better for a thing to have an effect than to be made void, i.e., it is better to validate a thing than to invalidate it.”


In the legal framework, the maxim “Contemporanea Expositio Est Fortissima in Lege” means that the finest way to interpret a text is to read it as it would have read when it was construed. It is often mentioned that the best description of a legislature or any verbal construction is that from the current authority description. Lord Coke laid down the maxim and was used while interpreting earlier legislations, but typically the maxim was not used to construe contemporary legislations as comparatively.It is apparent that the language of legislationshould be taken in the manner in which it was meant when it was drafted. The meaning which the legislators meant and those who subsisted at the time when the Act was enacted may judiciously be made-up to be well aware than the later generations.


The maxim “Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius” is used in many legal interpretations which plainly explains that the “explicit mention of one thing is the exclusion of another”. This means that when one specific object refersto a particular thing is overtly stated in a provision of a legislature, then all further things are not to be considered while interpreting or implementing the law mentioned.


“Reddendo Singula Singulis” is a legal maxim and a Latin phrase which literally means, “referring each to each”. It is often said the maxim is a grammar-based construction used inearlier legislation and is still in practice as many of the current legislative laws of India are as old as the law was first introduced to the country. The principle of the maxim refers and deals with the use of a word in the provision distributive with each other word. For instance, when there is a composite line of provision which has more than one subject and object, then it shall be the right construction to provide each to each, by reading the provisiondistributive and reading along each object to its appropriate subject. A parallel rule of constructive reading shall be made to verbs and the respective subjects, and to any other parts of speech.


Every legislation or statute is drafted with an intention. The significant duty of interpreting the provisions in a way in which the intention of the legislators is not disturbed is on the Judiciary. In the way of helping the Judiciary, legal maxims play an important role in providing them a path and rules of interpreting the provisions. The above discussed maxims are few common legal maxims used in the interpretation of statutes.










[1] Maxwell: Interpretation of Statutes, 11th Edition. Pg.321 [2] Black’s Law Dictionary, Bryan A. Garner, 8th Edition., 2004.

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