It is not competent for a judge to modify the language of an Act in order to bring it in accordance with his own views as to what is right and reasonable.
When the phraseology of an enactment is clear and unambiguous and capable of one and only one interpretation, it is not open to the courts to give a go-by lo that interpretation simply with a view to carrying out what is supposed to be the intention of the legislature.
This kind of interpretation departs from the letter of the law and goes behind the language used in the statute for the ascertainment of its meaning and is only adhered to when grammatical interpretation leads to some absurdity or inconsistency. In such cases it is the duty of the court to discover and give effect to the true intention of the legislature the men’s or sentential legis.
Salmond says that if is life duty of the courts of law to discover and act upon the true intention of the legislature the men’s or sentential legis. Nevertheless nothing would be more dangerous than to make the object of the legislature a ground for construing an enactment which in itself is unambiguous.
The language of a statute should not be strained to make if applicable to a case which it does not, on its terms, applying or by invoking considerations of the supposed intention of the legislature. The courts should take it absolutely for granted that the legislature has said what it meant, and meant what it has said.
The general rule is that the court must be content to accept the literal legist as the exclusive and conclusive evidence of the sentential legis.
There are two exceptions to the general rule. The first of these is where the letter of the law is logically defective and fails to give a definite, coherent and complete idea. The second, according to Salmond, is whether the next leads to a result so unreasonable that it is clear that the legislature could not have meant what it has said.
The logical defects by which the letter of the law may be affair and consequently sentential legist resorted to are three in number. The first is ambiguity. A statute instead of meaning one thing may mean two or more different things. In such a case it is the duty of the courts to go behind the letter of the law and seek to ascertain from other sources its true meaning.
The second logical defect of a statutory expression is inconsistency. A law instead of having more meaning than one, observes Salmond, may have none at all, the different parts of it being repugnant, so as- to destroy each other’s significance. In such a case it is the duty of the judicature to ascertain the sentential legist, and to correct the letter of the law accordingly.
Lastly, the law may be logically defective by reason of its incompleteness. The text, though neither ambiguous nor inconsistent, may contain some lacuna which prevents it from expressing any logically complete idea, e.g. where there are two alternative eases, the law may make provision for one of them and is silent as to the other. Such omissions the courts may supply by way of logical interpretation.
Il was observed by Sir Iqbal Ahmad, C.J., in loti Lai v. Chatura Prasad, (1941) A.L.J.R. 137 (F.B.) that if the phraseology used is capable of two interpretations, that interpretation which is consistent with the object of the enactment is to be preferred to the interpretation that would nullify that object.
Though a court cannot, while interpreting a statute, assume the functions of the legislature to legislate, it is nevertheless is duly to put a common sense interpretation on statutory enactment in preference to a literal interpretation that is destructive of the object of the enactment.
“The cardinal rule of interpretation of statutes is lo construing Hs provisions literally and grammatically giving the words their ordinary and natural meaning. It is only when such a construction leads to an obvious absurdity which the legislature can of be supposed to have intended that the court in interpreting the section may introduce words to give effect to what it conceives to be the true intention of the legislature. It is not any and every inconvenience that justifies adoption of this extreme rule of construction.”
“Where the language of a statute in its ordinary meaning and grammatical construction leads to a manifest contradiction of the apparent purpose of the enactment, or lo some inconvenience or absurdity, hardship or injustice, presumably not intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words, and even the structure of the sentence.”
The principles which govern the interpretation of an order or a judgment, however, are different from those which govern the interpretation of a statute. In interpreting an order one has to read the whole order and gather the sense of the order.