May 26, 2024
Home » Mischief Rule of Interpretation of Statute 
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This article has been written by Sanju Jha pursuing Ba. Llb from Rnb Global University, Bikaner. 

Introduction

The mischief rule focuses on determining the intention of lawmakers during the interpretation of statutes. It originated in the United Kingdom in the 16th century and was established in Heydon’s case. It was held that the primary aim of interpreting a statute should be to identify the “mischief and defect” that the statute intended to address and provide an effective remedy. This rule seeks to answer the question of what problem the previous law failed to cover, leading to the enactment of the statute in question.

The rule laid down in Heydon’s case which has now attained the status of classic is known as the ‘Mischief Rule’, the rule enables consideration of four matters in constructing an act:

  1. What was the law before making of the act;
  2. What was the mischief or defect for which the law did not provide;
  3. What is the remedy that the act has provided, and
  4. What is the reason behind of the remedy?

The rule then directs that the courts must adopt that construction which shall supress the mischief and advance the remedy. When statute provides relief against certain mischief, court should not deny such relief.[1]

In the words of Mukharjee, CJ:-

    Legislation both statutory and constitutional, is enacted it is true, from experience of evils. But its general language should not, therefore, necessarily be confirmed to the form that evil had taken. Time works changes, brings into existence new conditions and purposes and new awareness of limitation. Therefore, a principle to be valid must be capable of wider application than the mischief which gave it birth. This is particularly true of the constitutional constructions. Constitutions are not ephemeral enactment designed to meet passing occasions. These are designed to approach immortality as nearly as human institutions can approach it.[2]

Mischief rule is applicable there where language is capable of more than one meaning.[3]

When the question arises as to the meaning of certain provision in a statute it is proper to read that provision in its context. The context means the statutes as whole, the previous state of law, other statutes in pari material, the general scope of the status and the mischief that it was intended to remedy.[4]

It is duty of the court to make such construction of a statue which shall suppress the mischief and advance the remedy.[5]

PURPOSE FOR APPLYING MISCHIF RULE

Identify the Statute: To begin with, you need to identify which statute or law needing interpretation.

Examine the Mischief:

“The problem of mischief” should be examined under the mischief rule, which entails examining the legal dilemma that the statute sought to address. To accomplish this, the lawmakers’ intention for the law must be evaluated. Prior to the statute’s adoption, what was the legal predicament or problem that needed resolution?

Identify the Remedy:

Identifying the remedy is crucial. It involves uncovering the intended solution provided by the legislature for the issue at hand.

Interpretation:

In a bid to forward the remedy proposed by the legislature, the rule instructs the interpreter to decipher the statute, implying that the judge must scrutinize the statute while keeping the issue it aims to solve in mind.

CASE LAW

  • Smith v. Huges,[6] in this case around the 1960s, the prostitutes were soliciting in the streets of London and it was creating a huge problem in London. This was causing a great problem in maintaining law and order. To prevent this problem, Street Offences Act, 1959 was enacted. After the enactment of this act, the prostitutes started soliciting from windows and balconies.

Further, the prostitutes who were carrying on to solicit from the streets and balconies were charged under section 1(1) of the said Act. But the prostitutes pleaded that they were not solicited from the streets.

The court held that although they were not soliciting from the streets yet the mischief rule must be applied to prevent the soliciting by prostitutes and shall look into this issue. Thus, by applying this rule, the court held that the windows and balconies were taken to be an extension of the word street and charge sheet was held to be correct.

  • Kanwar Singh v. Delhi Administrat,[7] Issues of the case were as follows- section 418 of Delhi Corporation Act, 1902 authorised the corporation to round up the cattle grazing on the government land. The MCD rounded up the cattle belonging to Kanwar Singh. The words used in the statute authorised the corporation to round up the abandoned cattle. It was contended by Kanwar Singh that the word abandoned means the loss of ownership and those cattle which were round up belonged to him and hence, was not abandoned. The court held that the mischief rule had to be applied and the word abandoned must be interpreted to mean let loose or left unattended and even the temporary loss of ownership would be covered as abandoned.
  • Regional Provident Fund Commissioner v. Sri Krishna Manufacturing Company,[8] Issue, in this Case, was that the respondent concerned was running a factory where four units were for manufacturing. Out of these four units one was for paddy mill, other three consisted of flour mill, saw mill and copper sheet units. The number of employees there were more than 50. The RPFC applied the provisions of Employees Provident Fund Act, 1952 thereby directing the factory to give the benefits to the employees.

The person concerned segregated the entire factory into four separate units wherein the number of employees had fallen below 50, and he argued that the provisions were not applicable to him because the number is more than 50 in each unit. It was held by the court that the mischief rule has to be applied and all the four units must be taken to be one industry, and therefore, the applicability of PFA was upheld.

CONCLUSION

In legal decision-making, the mischief rule of interpretation proves to be a valuable asset, providing judges with the means to deduce and apply the accurate intention and objective of legislation. By going beyond the literal text of a statute and instead focusing on the historical context, purpose of the law, and legislative correction proposed, judges can arrive at interpretations that coincide with the legislature’s overarching ambitions.

Adopting this strategy guarantees that the law serves its purpose, especially in situations where the wording of the statute is insufficient to account for every given situation, ultimately encouraging a fair, just and effective operation of the legal system


[1] Up drug& pharmaceuticals co ltd v Ramanuj  Yadav AIR2003

[2] Delhi transport copn V DTC Mazdoor congress AIR 1991

[3] Parayan Kandiyal Eravath KK Amma V K Devi AIR 1966

[4] UOI v Elphinstone spg& wvg co ltd AIR2001

[5] Benagal Immunity co v State of Bihar AIR 1955        

[6] Smith v. Huges, 1960 WLR 830

[7] Kanwar Singh v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1965 SC 871

[8] Regional Provident Fund Commissioner v. Sri Krishna Manufacturing Company, AIR 1962 SC 1526


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