A statute is defined as the order or will of a legislature which is conveyed through text. To understand the intention of a legislature, it can be interpreted or construed. The intention of a legislature contains the actual meaning and objective. This process of interpretation and construction helps the judicial bodies to form the meaning and purpose of the legislation.
MEANING OF INTERPRETATION
The term interpretation has been derived from the Latin word ‘interpretari’ which means to understand, expound, explain and translate. Interpretation is the procedure of explaining or translating a text.
In simple terms, interpretation of a statute means understanding the law. The aim of a court is to not just read law but to apply it in a manner which suits case to case. Therefore, it is a process used by courts to find out the actual implication of an act or document and also its intention. Interpretation bridges the gap between the enactment of a law and its translation.
The basis of interpretation is to clarify the meaning of the words used in in-laws and statutes which might be ambiguous. There might be irregularities in in-laws which need to be corrected and they can be done by applying various theories of interpretations to see which might go against the literal meanings of those laws.
MEANING OF CONSTRUCTION
Construction is the activity of translating the semantics of a legal text into legal rules. In other words, it is the drawing of conclusions from a subject which cannot be understood directly from the text.
In law, construction is the process of legal explanation which makes sense of difficult and hard terms written in statutes and gives a conclusion based on logic and reasoning. A court extracts findings after inspecting the meaning of the words used in the text. The aim of construction is to establish the legal effect of the legal text. The basic principle of construction is to read the text, laws or statutes in a literal manner.
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INTERPRETATION AND CONSTRUCTION
1. Interpretation refers to the understanding of words and the true sense of a legal text. Construction refers to the drawing of conclusions of the legal text that lie beyond the direct expression of the legal text.
2. Interpretation takes place when we want to find the original meaning of a legal text. All other forms of constitutional analysis come under construction.
3. Interpretation takes place when the meaning of the legal text is clear and unambiguous so that it can be interpreted. Construction takes place when the meaning of the text is unclear, ambiguous and is challenged.
4. A court can only interpret a legal text. Elected officials are free to construe the meaning of a legal text.
5. The main function of interpretation is to find out the simple and real meaning of the legal text. When the use of the literal meaning of the legal text creates ambiguity, construction helps to find out if the case can be covered under it or not.
6. Interpretation deals with identifying the semantic meaning of a particular use of language in context. Construction is when the meaning is applied to particular factual circumstances.
7. Interpretation finds out the ways through which any statute can be analysed. Construction tries to conclude it.
8. Through interpretation, one can find out the linguistic meaning in the context of a legal text. Through construction, one can discover the legal effect of the legal text.
9. Interpretation rules out ambiguity. Construction creates additional rules to resolve the vagueness.
10. Interpretation can be regarded as a broad form of construction as to how one construes a legal text. Construction is a method of interpretation where the words are interpreted vigorously and literally.
11. Interpretation of a legal text can be done partly but construction has to be done as a whole.
RULES OF INTERPRETATION
1. The Literal or Grammatical rule.
According to literal rule, the words in a legal text are to be interpreted in their natural or ordinary meaning. The basis of this rule is that whatever the legislature intends while making any provision is expressed through words and interpreted according to grammatical rules. This is the safest rule for interpretation of statutes as the intention of the legislature is concluded from the language and words used in the legal text.
2. The Mischief rule.
Mischief rule first emerged in Heydon’s case in 1584. It is known as mischief rule as it focuses on curing the mischief by providing a remedy. This rule deals with purposive construction as according to this rule, the most important thing is the purpose of the statute.
The following four things were held in Heydon’s case for the true interpretation of all statutes in general –
- What was the common law before the making of a particular act?
- What was the mischief for which the present statute or law was enacted?
- What remedy did the Judicial body sought?
- What is the true reason for the remedy?
3. The Golden rule.
It is called the golden rule as it solves all problems related to interpretation. The rule says that while interpreting a legal text, first the literal rule will be followed. If the interpretation given by the literal rule results in any kind of ambiguity, then for all further events the literal rule shall be discarded and the interpretation shall be continued in such a manner that fulfills the purpose of the legal text.
The literal rule interprets the natural meaning of a legal text but if the natural meaning leads to any vagueness or repugnancy, then the court must alter the meaning so that no injustice is caused. This rule implies that the effects and consequences of an interpretation are of importance as they are the signs of true meaning and intention of words in any legal text.
4. Harmonious Construction
According to this rule of interpretation, if two or more provisions of the same statute are contrary to each other, then in such cases the court shall try to construe the provisions in such a manner that both the provisions will be given effect and will exist harmoniously with each other. The difficulty would lie in identifying if whether the two provisions of the same statute are overlapping or not. The basic principle of this rule is that the legislature should not contradict itself and if it gives something by one hand, then it should not take something away by the other.
Words used in legal texts aren’t always clear and comprehensible, be it acts, statutes, provisions or in legal documents. Hence, courts aim to determine the clear and explicit meanings of words and phrases used in such legal texts. Interpretation precedes construction when it comes to the explanation of a statute, act or any legal text. On one hand, interpretation is about exploring the written legal text while on the other hand; construction helps in determining the explanation of the legal text along with its legal effects. Therefore, construction is used in a broader sense.
This article is authored by Malvika Verma, 4th Year BBA.LLB Student at Sandip University.
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