LITERAL RULE OF CONSTRUCTION/INTER PRETATION/ PLAIN RULE

A “Statute” is the will of the sovereign legislature according to which the government’s function and Court interpret it in the course of administration of justice. Interpretation is the method by which the true intention or the true meaning of the word is understood. Whenever a dispute comes before the court and there is an ambiguity about the true meaning of the law, the court interprets the law. In interpretation, the primary function of a court is to find the Sententia Legis (true intention of legislation). Hence, In the process of such interpretation, the Courts have, over the centuries, laid down certain rules that have come to be known as “Rules of Interpretation of Statutes”. There are three major rules of interpretation of statute i.e. literal rule, the golden rule, and the mischief rule. The first rule of interpretation is the literal rule of interpretation. Literal rule is the cardinal rule applied by the judges in interpretation. Under this rule, the words of a statute must be understood in their natural, ordinary, or popular sense, and phrases and sentences are also must construe according to their grammatical meaning. This rule is also known as “Plain Rule of interpretation, Primary rule, grammatical interpretation. In this form of interpretation when the words of a statute are clear, plain, or unambiguous the court is bound to give effect to that meaning irrespective of consequences. In the case of Sussex Peerage Tindal, C.J state the rule that “if the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous, then no more can be necessary than to expound those words in their natural and ordinary sense. The words themselves do alone in such cases best declare the intent of the lawgiver. This has been called the safest rule because the legislature’s intention can be deduced only from the language through which it has expressed itself.

In Crawford v. Spooner Lord Brougham observed that to take the words as the legislature has given them, and to take the meaning which the words have given naturally imply unless that leads to some absurdity or unless the context of the words in the question or contrary. In the case of Grey v. Pearson LORD WENSLEYDALE stated that the grammatical and ordinary sense of the word is adhered to unless that would lead to some absurdity, or some repugnance or inconsistency with the rest of the instrument in which case the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words may be modified, so as to avoid that absurdity and inconsistency, but no further. Gajendragadkar. J held that in the case of Kanailal Sur v. Paramnidhi Sadhu Khan if the words used are capable of one construction only then it would not be open to the courts to adopt any other hypothetical construction on the ground that such construction is more consistent with the alleged object and policy of the Act. It is an elementary rule of interpretation of the statute that the words have to be read in their literal sense. Thus, words and expressions would be given their plain and ordinary meaning which cannot be cut down or curtailed unless they in themselves leads to some absurdity, inconsistency, and ambiguity. The literal rule follows the maxim, verbis legis non est recelendum, which means words of law there should be no departure but the interpretation which leads to unconstitutionality or invalidity must be also avoided.
As a consequences
* Harbhajan Singh v. Press Council of India
* R.S. Nayak v. A.R. Antulay
* Bharat Aluminium Company v. Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services

By:- Prasansha Kumud
Central University of South Bihar

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