Interpretation is the method by which the true sense or the meaning of the word is understood. The meaning of the ordinary word of the English word is not a question of law but the proper construction of a statute is a question of law. Therefore the entire process of interpreting an act or statute by the courts is only to discover the intention of the legislature. While in finding out the true intention of the legislature, if the language used is capable of bearing more than one construction and it results in hardship, serious inconvenience, injustice then the court will adopt that interpretation which is just, fair, reasonable, and sensible rather than that which is none of those things and this is called golden rule of interpretation. The golden rule of interpretation is basically a modification of the literal rule. The literal rule of interpretation says that the words used in the statute are must be construed according to their natural, literal, and grammatical meaning of the term. But this golden rule of interpretation comes into play where the literal interpretation gives some irrational, absurd, vague, and inconsistent meaning and such interpretation cannot be accepted. The first time the golden rule is applied in Grey v. Pearson, Lord Wensleygale said that “The literal rule should be used first, but if it results in absurdity, the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words may be modified, so as to avoid absurdity and inconsistency, but no further.” Some judges have suggested that a court may depart from the ordinary meaning where that would lead to absurdity. This is also known as “Lord Wensleydale’s golden rule”. Therefore, the so-called “golden rule” is really a modification or an exception of the literal rule. It was stated in this way by Parke B.: “It is a very useful rule, in the construction of a statute, to adhere to the ordinary meaning. of the words used, and to the grammatical construction, unless that is at variance with the intention of the legislature, to be collected from the statute itself, or leads to any manifest absurdity or repugnance, in which case the language may be varied or modified, so as to avoid such inconvenience, but no further.
Maunsell v. Olins
Holmes v. Bradfield
Tirath Singh v. Bachitar Singh
Bharat Aluminium Co. v. Kaiser Aluminium Technical Services Inc
N.T. Veluswami Thevar v. G. Raja Nainar
Departure from the Grammatical rule
The golden rule of interpretation is an exception to the grammatical rule of interpretation. So to achieve the true intention and to produce a reasonable, fair, and sensible result we can depart from the grammatical rule. This is called a departure from the rule. In a departure from the rule, the court can correct obvious drafting errors and so in suitable cases “ the court will add words or omit words or substitute words. But before interpreting a statute the court must be abundantly sure of three matters:
*The intended purpose of the Statute or provision in question
*That by inadvertence the draftsman and parliament failed to give effect to that purpose in the provision in question.
*The substance of the provision’s parliament would have used and had the error in the bill been noticed.
Criticism of Golden Rule
Zander, in his more recent book, criticized the golden rule for being silent as to how the court should proceed if it does find an unacceptable absurdity.
* It suffers from the same difficulties as the literal approach vis a lack of wider contextual understandings of “meanings.”
* The idea of “absurdity” covers only a very few cases. Most cases involve situations where difficult choices have to be made between several fairly plausible arguments, not situations where the words lead to obvious absurdities.
*The use of the “absurdity” safety valve can be very erratic.
It is the duty of the Court to give effect to the meaning of an Act when the meaning can be fairly gathered from the words used, that is to say, if one construction would lead to an absurdity while another will give effect to what common sense would show, as obviously intended, the construction which would defeat the ends of the Act must be rejected even if the same words used in the same section, and even the same sentence, have to be construed differently. Indeed, the law goes so far as to require the courts sometimes even to modify the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words, if by doing so absurdity and inconsistency can be avoided. The Court should not be astute to defeat the provision of the Act whose meaning is, on the face of it, reasonably plain. Of course, this does not mean that an Act or any part of it can be recast. It must be possible to spell the meaning contended for, out of the words actually used.