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Thursday, June 10, 2010

When can courts add words in statute

In M. Pentiah and others v. Muddala 
Veeramallappa and others (AIR 1961 SC 1107)at para 27 of the said judgment, wherein, their Lordships of the Supreme Court of India, while referring to the judgment rendered by Denning L.J., sought to rectify a mistake committed by draftsman. The relevant portion of the judgment reads as under :-

Where the language of a stature, in its ordinary meaning and grammatical construction, 
leads to a manifest contradiction of the apparent purpose of the enactment, or to 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.....Where the main object and intention of a statute are clear, it must not be reduced to a nullity by the draftsman's unskillfulness or ignorance of the law, except in a case of necessity, or the absolute intractability of the language used. Nevertheless, the courts are very reluctant to substitute words in a Statute, nor to add words to it, and it has been said that they will only do so where there is repugnancy to good sense."
It is a very powerful statement and almost prohibits the courts to add words to the Statute and also permits them to make some alterations so that the statute is not reduced to nullity or void.[blogger]
Seaford Court Estates Ltd. v. Asher  
(1949-2 All ER 155 at p.164), wherein Denning L.J. Said -

" When a defect appears a judge cannot simply fold his hands and blame the draftsman. He must set to work on the constructive task of finding the intention of Parliament....... And then he must supplement the written word so as to give "force and life" to the intention of the legislature....A judge should ask himself the question, how if the makers of the Act had themselves come across this ruck in the texture of it, they would have straightened it out 
Act is woven, but he can and should iron out the creases."

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