Golden rule of interpretation and mischief rule of interpretation



The term interpretation has been derived from the Latin word ‘interpretari’ which means to explain, understand or to translate. So, interpretation is that the method of explaining, translating any text in the written form. It is not a mechanical method but however is a dynamic and artistic one. In this process, the judge exerts a very considerable influence on the statute law, it is to manifest and perceptible that sometimes, the judges have considered making law. Interpretation is very important function of the courts. It is through this operate the judiciary evolves the law and brings changes in it. Interpretation of statutes is that the correct understanding of law. Because the object of court is not only to read but also to apply it in a meaningful way from case to case. Interpretation has always been considered to be very important and has been treated as a separate branch of learning. Interpretation is a work of human mind.

According to Salmond, Interpretation is the method by that the courts get to establish the means of legislature through medium forms that it’s expressed.


It is known as golden rule as a result of it solves all the issues of interpretation. It’s the modification of the literal rule of interpretation. The literal rule of interpretation may be a means that to establish the general purport of the statute, therefore in difficult cases the court may go beyond the words of statute and take help from other sources, this rule is called Golden rule. Golden rule tries to avoid absurd consequences that arise from literal rule of interpretation. Whereas viewing, the grammatical mistakes are also modified. This rule suggests that the consequences and effects of interpretation deserve a lot more importance because they are the true meaning of words used in the legislation and their intention.

It is a very useful rule in the construction of a statute to adhere to the ordinary meaning of the words used, and the grammatical correction, unless that is at variance with the intention of legislature to be collected from statute itself, or results in any manifest, during which the language could also be varied or modified so as to avoid such inconvenience. Language of the law is the manifestation of intention of legislature underlying for which the golden rule is used. In this modern time, golden rule of interpretation has been given wider application and the courts resort to it in difficulties of other kinds also. Golden rule of interpretation aims at giving effect to the laws as a mechanical and grammatical meaning is not sufficient. Whenever grammatical meaning cannot be given doubt then the golden rule of interpretation shall be applied keeping in mind the consequences of the decisions given.


Tirath Singh v Bachittar Singh, AIR 1955 SC 850

In this case there was an issue relating to issuing of notice under Section 99 of Representation of People’s Act, 1951.
According to this rule, the notice should be issued to every person who is a party to the election petition and who is not a part of it. Tirath singh contended that no such notice was issued. The notice was issued only to those who were non-parties to the election. This was challenged in the court on the invalid ground. The court held that the view of giving information and whatever is given the information remains the same. The decision of the court was that the party to the election petition was having the notice regarding the petition, hence section 99 shall be interpreted and by applying the golden rule the notice is regarding non-parties only.


This is another rule to guide judges after they realize issue in literal interpretation. It looks into the policy of the statute. This rule offers judges the foremost discretion of all. Mischief rule was originated in Heydon’s case within the year 1584. It is referred as a mischief rule as a result of the main focus is on action the mischief. In Heydon’s case there have been four things considered and discussed:

1. What was the common law before the making of the act.
2. What was mischief and detect for which the common law did not provide.
3. What remedy did the Parliament sought or had resolved or appointed to cure the disease of the common law.
4.The true reason of the remedy.

The rule is meant to spot the MISCHIEF within the statute and interpret the statute justly. The most aim is to determine the “mischief and defect”. In applying the mischief rule, the court is basically asking what a part of the law failed to cover, however meant to be rectified by the Parliament. It is to suppress the mischief. The mischief rule offers the foremost discretion to judges and is suit specific, usually ambiguous cases. The purpose of mischief rule is that to offer result to present intention. The rule permits statutes to be refined and developed. In Heydon’s case it had been stated that the office of all judges is usually to create such construction as shall suppress the mischief and advance the remedy and the inventions for the continuance of mischief.


Smith v. Huges, 1960 WLR 830:

During this case this was around 1960’s, the prostitutes were soliciting within the streets of London and it was creating huge problem. This was inflicting downside in maintaining the law and order. To prevent, Street Offences act, 1959 was enacted. After the enactment of act, the prostitutes started soliciting from windows and balconies. Further the prostitutes who were soliciting were charged under the said act. The prostitutes pleaded they were not solicited from streets. The court held that although they were not soliciting from the streets yet the mischief rule must be applied prevent the soliciting by prostituting and shall look into issue. Hence, by applying this rule the court held that windows and balconies were taken into consideration and in extension in the word street and the charge sheet was held correct.


Interpretation is the technique of the judicial process by which we will get to know and understand the intention of the legislature. The court ensures in delivering justice to every citizen. To ensure justice to all concepts of interpretations was explained. The rules which have been evolved are to determine the intention of legislature.

Author: Saba banu,
Pendekanti law college, 3rd year BA LLB student

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