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Background :- Recently we published an editorial on Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act of 1951 and Supreme Court!!!

In interpretation of the particular section there was a debate on the Purposive Interpretation  and its meaning. There is certain ambiguity with respect to the meaning of it and this is our attempt to clarify it.

A special note of Thanks to Sonu for bringing this up.

The purposive approach to statutory interpretation is used in the European Court of Justice. The literal rule would be of little use in the European Courts since there are several languages in operation and translation is not an exact science.  Domestic judges are required to apply the Purposive approach whenever applying a piece of EU law.

Lord Simon explained the purposive approach in Maunsell v Olins[1975] AC 373 Case summary

‘The first task of a court of construction is to put itself in the shoes of the draftsman – to consider what knowledge he had and, importantly, what statutory objective he had …being thus placed…the court proceeds to ascertain the meaning of the statutory language.”

Thus the purposive approach to statutory interpretation seeks to look for the purpose of the legislation before interpreting the words. It has often been said that the purposive approach is a mixture of the domestic rules, however, whereas the domestic rules require the courts to apply the literal rule first to look at the wording of the Act, the purposive approach starts with the mischief rule in seeking the purpose or intention of Parliament.
It is therefore a much more flexible approach giving judges greater scope to develop the law in line with what they perceive to be Parliament’s intention. The purposive approach more readily embraces the use of extrinsic aids to assist in finding Parliament’s intention.
To sum it up
The purposive approach sometimes referred to as purposive construction, purposive interpretation, or the “modern principle in construction” is an approach to statutory and constitutional interpretation under which common law courts interpret an enactment (that is, a statute, a part of a statute, or a clause of a constitution) in light of the purpose for which it was enacted.


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