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CASE LAW ON INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES


Hon'ble Supreme Court as far back as in 1953 in case of State of Bombay v. Pandurang, AIR 1953 SC 244 held as under:"When a statute enacts that something shall be deemed to have been done, which in fact and truth was not done, the Court is entitled and bound to ascertain for what purposes and between what persons the statutory fiction is to be resorted to and full effect must be given to the statutory fiction and it should be carried to its logical concusion."

But while interpreting a legal fiction, care should betaken that is so construing the legal fiction it is not to be extended beyond the purpose pose for which it has been created. See Dr. Bali Ram Waman Hirary v. Mr. Justice B. Lentin and Ors., AIR 1988 SC 2267 Para 29. Hon'ble Supreme Court in the above case has held that first part cannot be read in isolation, but must take its colour from the context in which it appears. It would not be correct to contend that the fiction created by the first part by the words shall be deemed to be a Civil Court' is full and complete in itself. The purpose and object of the legal fiction created by the first part of Sub-section (4) is reflected in the second. A Commission of Inquiry is, therefore, fictionally a Civil Court for the limited purpose of proceeding Under Section 432 of old Code or Under Section 346 of the present Code. A fortiori, the legal fiction contained in Sub-section (5) of Section 5 which relates to the proceedings before the Commission is necessarily confined to offences that are punishable Under Sections 193 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code and does not extend beyond that.

State Of Rajasthan vs Babu Ram AIR 2007 SC 2018 The word "person" has not been defined in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. One of the basic principles of interpretation of Statutes is to construe the words according to their plain, literal and grammatical meaning. The word "person" has not been defined in the Act. Section 2(xxix) of the Act says that the words and expressions used herein and not defined but defined in the Code of Criminal Procedure have the meanings respectively assigned to them in that Code. The Code, however, does not define the word "person". Section 2(y) of the Code says that the words and expressions used therein and not defined but defined in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 have the meanings respectively assigned to them in that Code. Section 11 of the Indian Penal Code says that the word "person" includes any Company or Association or body of persons whether incorporated or not. Similar definition of the word "person" has been given in Section 3(42) of the General Clauses Act. Therefore, these definitions render no assistance for resolving the controversy in hand….. One of the basic principles of interpretation of Statutes is to construe them according to plain, literal and grammatical meaning of the words. If that is contrary to, or inconsistent with, any express intention or declared purpose of the Statute, or if it would involve any absurdity, repugnancy or inconsistency, the grammatical sense must then be modified, extended or abridged, so far as to avoid such an inconvenience, but no further. The onus of showing that the words do not mean what they say lies heavily on the party who alleges it. He must advance something which clearly shows that the grammatical construction would be repugnant to the intention of the Act or lead to some manifest absurdity….. In the well known treatise - Principles of Statutory Interpretation by Justice G.P. Singh, the learned author has enunciated the same principle that the words of the Statute are first understood in their natural, ordinary or popular sense and phrases and sentences are construed according to their grammatical meaning, unless that leads to some absurdity or unless there is something in the context or in the object of the Statute to suggest the contrary. ……. A bag, briefcase or any such article or container, etc. can, under no circumstances, be treated as body of a human being. They are given a separate name and are identifiable as such. They cannot even remotely be treated to be part of the body of a human being. Depending upon the physical capacity of a person, he may carry any number of items like a bag, a briefcase, a suitcase, a tin box, a thaila, a jhola, a gathri, a holdall, a carton, etc. of varying size, dimension or weight. However, while carrying or moving along with them, some extra effort or energy would be required. They would have to be carried either by the hand or hung on the shoulder or back or placed on the head. In common parlance it would be said that a person is carrying a particular article, specifying the manner in which it was carried like hand, shoulder, back or head, etc. Therefore, it is not possible to include these articles within the ambit of the word "person" occurring in Section 50 of the Act……… The scope and ambit of Section 50 of the Act was examined in considerable detail by a Constitution Bench in State of Punjab v. Baldev Singh (1999 (6) SCC 172)and para 12 of the reports is being reproduced below : "12. On its plain reading, Section 50 would come into play only in the case of a search of a person as distinguished from search of any premises etc. However, if the empowered officer, without any prior information as contemplated by Section 42 of the Act makes a search or causes arrest of a person during the normal course of investigation into an offence or suspected offence and on completion of that search, a contraband under the NDPS Act is also recovered, the requirements of Section 50 of the Act are not attracted."

The Bench recorded its conclusion in para 57 of the reports and sub-paras (1), (2), (3) and (6) are being reproduced below : "57. On the basis of the reasoning and discussion above, the following conclusions arise:
(1) That when an empowered officer or a duly authorized officer acting on prior information is about to search a person, it is imperative for him to inform the person concerned of his right under Sub-section (1) of Section 50 of being taken to the nearest gazetted officer or the nearest Magistrate for making the search. However, such information may not necessarily be in writing.
(2) That failure to inform the person concerned about the existence of his right to be searched before a gazetted officer or a Magistrate would cause prejudice to an accused.
(3) That a search made by an empowered officer, on prior information, without informing the person of his right that if he so requires, he shall be taken before a gazetted officer or a Magistrate for search and in case he so opts, failure to conduct his search before a gazetted officer or a Magistrate may not vitiate the trial but would render the recovery of the illicit article suspect and vitiate the conviction and sentence of an accused, where the conviction has been recorded only on the basis of the possession of the illicit article, recovered from his person, during a search conducted in violation of the provisions of Section 50 of the Act.
(6) That in the context in which the protection has been incorporated in Section 50 for the benefit of the person intended to be searched, we do not express any opinion whether the provisions of Section 50 are mandatory or directory, but hold that failure to inform the person concerned of his right as emanating from Sub-section (1) of Section 50, may render the recovery of the contraband suspect and the conviction and sentence of an accused bad and unsustainable in law."


The Supreme Court in Kerala State Electricity Board v. T.P. Kun-haliumma [1976] 4 SCC 634 ; AIR 1977 SC 282 held as follows (p. 285): ".....The words 'any other application' under Article 137 cannot be said on the principle of ejusdem generis to be applications under the Civil Procedure Code other than those mentioned in Part I of the third division. Any other application under Article 137 would be a petition or any application under any Act. But it has to be an application to a court for the reason that Sections 4 and 5 of the 1963 Limitation Act speak of expiry of the prescribed period when the court is closed and extension of the prescribed period if the applicant or the appellant satisfies the court that he had sufficient cause for not preferring the appeal or making the application during such period."

State of Punjab v. Baldev Singh 1999 SCC (Criminal) 1080, wherein it was held: (2-C) Under Section 42(1) the empowered officer if has a prior information given by any person, that should necessarily be taken down in writing. But if he has reason to believe from personal knowledge that offences under Chapter IV have been committed or materials which may furnish evidence of commission of such offences are concealed in any building etc. he may carry out the arrest or search without a warrant between sunrise and sunset and this provision does not mandate that he should record his reasons of belief. But under the proviso to Section 42(1) if such officer has to carry out such search between sunset and sunrise, he must record the grounds of his belief. To this extent these provisions are mandatory and contravention of the same would affect the prosecution case and vitiate the trial.

In State of Haryana v. Jarnail Singh and Ors. 2004 VI AD (S.C.) 499, it was observed, Sections 42 and 43, therefore, contemplate two different situations. Section 42 contemplates entry into and search of any building, conveyance or enclosed place, while Section 43 contemplates a seizure made in any public place or in transit. If seizure is made under Section 42 between sunset and sunrise, the requirement of the proviso thereto has to be complied with. There is no such proviso in Section 43 of the Act and, therefore, it is obvious that if a public conveyance is searched in a public place, the officer making the search is not required to record his satisfaction as contemplated by the proviso to Section 42 of the NDPS Act for searching the vehicle between sunset and the sunrise.

In Narayanaswamy Ravishankar v. Asstt. Dir., Directorate of Revenue Intelligence 2002 VIII AD (S.C.) 204, it was held, In the instant case, according to the documents on record and the evidence of the witnesses, the search and seizure took place at the Airport which is a public place. This being so, it is the provisions of Section 43 of the NDPS Act which would be applicable. Further, as Section 42 of the NDPS Act was not applicable in the present case, the seizure having been effected in a public place, the question of non-compliance, if any, of the provisions of Section 42 of the NDPS Act is wholly irrelevant.

Sajan Abraham vs. State Of Kerala, 2001 AIR SCW 2970; Hon'ble Supreme court held that in this case the communication to the immediate superior had not been made in the form of a report by the officer who made the arrest and seizure but the officer had sent the copies of the FIR along with other records regarding arrest of the accused-appellant and seizure of the contraband articles were sent by the officer to his superior officer immediately after registering the said case. So, all the necessary information to be submitted in a report was sent. This constitutes substantial compliance and mere absence of any such report cannot be said to have prejudiced the accused. This Section is not mandatory in nature. When substantial compliance has been made, as in the present case, it would not vitiate the prosecution case.

Pepsi Foods Ltd. & Anr. Vs. Special Judicial Magistrate & Ors. (1998) 5 SCC 749, S.M.S. Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Vs. Neeta Bhalla & Anr (2005) 8 SCC 89 and Keki Hormusji Gharda & Ors. Vs. Mehervan Rustom Irani & Anr. (2009) 6 SCC 475, learned counsel contended that the IPC, save and except in some specific cases, does not contemplate vicarious liability of a person who is not directly charged for the commission of an offence, and a person cannot be made an accused merely by reason of his official position. Further, it was contended that in order to launch prosecution against the officers of a company, the complainant must make specific averments as to the role played by each of the officials accused in the complaint.

The meaning of the word `vesting' has been considered by this Court time and again. In The Fruit & Vegetable Merchants Union v. The Delhi Improvement Trust, AIR 1957 SC 344, this Court held that the meaning of word `vesting' varies as per the context of the Statute in which the property vests. While considering the case under Sections 16 and 17 of the Act 1894, the Court held as under: ...the property acquired becomes the property of Government without any condition or limitations either as to title or possession. The legislature has made it clear that vesting of the property is not for any limited purpose or limited duration."

"Encumbrance" actually means the burden caused by an act or omission of man and not that created by nature. It means a burden or charge upon property or a claim or lien on the land. It means a legal liability on property. Thus, it constitutes a burden on the title which diminishes the value of the land. It may be a mortgage or a deed of trust or a lien of an easement. An encumbrance, thus, must be a charge on the property. It must run with the property. (Vide Collector of Bombay v. Nusserwanji Rattanji Mistri and Ors., AIR 1955 SC 298; H.P. State Electricity Board and Ors. v. Shiv K. Sharma and Ors., AIR 2005 SC 954; and AI Champdany Industries Ltd. v. Official Liquidator and Anr., (2009) 4 SCC 486).

In State of Himachal Pradesh v. Tarsem Singh and Ors., AIR 2001 SC 3431, this Court held that the terminology `free from all encumbrances' used in Section 16 of the Act 1894, is wholly unqualified and would en-compass the extinguishing of "all rights, title and interests including easementary rights" when the title vests in the State. Thus, "free from encumbrances" means vesting of land in the State without any charge or burden in it. Thus, State has absolute title/ownership over it. 

In Satendra Prasad Jain and Ors. v. State of U.P. and Ors., AIR 1993 SC 2517, Supreme Court held that once land vests in the State free from all encumbrances, it cannot be divested. The same view has been reiterated in Awadh Bihari Yadav and Ors. v. State of Bihar and Ors., (1995) 6 SCC 31; U.P. Jal Nigam, Lucknow v. M/s Kalra Properties (P) Ltd. Lucknow and Ors., AIR 1996 SC 1170; Pratap and Anr. (Supra); Chandragauda Ramgonda Patil and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra and Ors., (1996) 6 SCC 405; Allahabad Development Authority v. Nasiruzzaman and Ors., (1996) 6 SCC 424; State of Kerala and Ors. v. M. Bhaskaran Pillai and Anr., AIR 1997 SC 2703; M. Ramalinga Thevar v. State of Tamil Nadu and Ors., (2000) 4 SCC 322; Printers (Mysore) Ltd. v. M.A. Rasheed and Ors., (2004) 4 SCC 460; Bangalore Development Authority and Ors., v. R. Hanumaiah and Ors,. (2005) 12 SCC 508; and Government of Andhra Pradesh and Anr. v. Syed Akbar, AIR 2005 SC 492.

In a similar situation, in Gulam Mustafa and Ors. v. The State of Maharashtra and Ors., AIR 1977 SC 448, this Court held as under: "Once the original acquisition is valid and title has vested in the Municipality, how it uses the excess land is no concern of the original owner and cannot be the basis for invalidating the acquisition. There is no principle of law by which a valid compulsory acquisition stands voided because long later the requiring Authority diverts it to a public purpose other than the one stated in the....declaration."

Re-iterating a similar view in C. Padma and Ors. v. Deputy Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu and Ors., (1997) 2 SCC 627, this Court held that if by virtue of a valid acquisition of land, land stands vested in the State, thereafter, claimants are not entitled to restoration of possession on the grounds that either the original public purpose is ceased to be in operation or the land could not be used for any other purposes.

In Bhagat Singh etc. v. State of U.P. and Ors., AIR 1999 SC 436; Niladri Narayan Chandradhurja v. State of West Bengal, AIR 2002 SC 2532; and Northern Indian Glass Industries v. Jaswant Singh and Ors., (2003) 1 SCC 335, this Court held that, the land user can be changed by the Statutory Authority after the land vests in the State free from all encumbrances.

In Palitana Sugar Mills (P) Ltd. and Another vs. State of Gujarat and Others, (2004) 12 SCC 645, this Court reiterated the principle that a judgment of this Court is binding on all and it is not open to contend that the full facts had not been placed before the Court. In this regard, para 62 of the judgment reads as follows: "62. It is well settled that the judgments of this Court are binding on all the authorities under Article 142 of the Constitution and it is not open to any authority to ignore a binding judgment of this Court on the ground that the full facts had not been placed before this Court and/or the judgment of this Court in the earlier proceedings had only collaterally or incidentally decided the issues ......" 


In A.V. Papayya Sastry and Others vs. Govt. of A.P. and Others, (2007) 4 SCC 221, this Court observed as under: "38. The matter can be looked at from a different angle as well. Suppose, a case is decided by a competent court of law after hearing the parties and an order is passed in favour of the plaintiff applicant which is upheld by all the courts including the final court. Let us also think of a case where this Court does not dismiss special leave petition but after granting leave decides the appeal finally by recording reasons. Such order can truly be said to be a judgment to which Article 141 of the Constitution applies. Likewise, the doctrine of merger also gets attracted. All orders passed by the courts/authorities below, therefore, merge in the judgment of this Court and after such judgment, it is not open to any party to the judgment to approach any court or authority to review, recall or reconsider the order."

The Court has approved this well settled principle that a judgment of the Supreme Court cannot be collaterally challenged on the ground that certain points had not been considered. This Court in Anil Kumar Neotia and Others vs. Union of India and Others, (1988) 2 SCC 587 held that it is not open to contend that certain points had not been urged or argued before the Supreme Court and thereby seek to reopen the issue. The relevant portion of the judgment is as follows: "... This Court further observed that to contend that the conclusion therein applied only to the parties before this Court was to destroy the efficacy and integrity of the judgment and to make the mandate of Article 141 illusory..... It is no longer open to the Petitioners to contend that certain portions had not been urged and the effect of the judgment cannot be collaterally challenged."

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