Perplexity of Interpretation Statutes written by Surya Sunilkumar student of Ramaiah institute of legal studies
Amar Chandra Chakraborty Vs Collector of Excise (1972)
This case is a landmark decision taken by the Supreme Court of India. It was an important case with respect to the subject matter of interpretation of statutes. The principle of ejusdem generis was defined by the court and it also stated the applicability of this principle. The word ‘ejusdem generis’ means denoting a principle for interpreting legal texts that assume that, if there is a general term accompanying a list of specific terms, then the general term is restricted to things of the same character as the specific terms. With the help of this case court laid down some ground rules regarding the application of this rule.
Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in the petition had obtained a license under the Tripura Excise Rule 1962 as he engaged in Excise Wholesale Contractor for Country Liquor. There was an agreement entered by the plaintiff and the Government of Tripura thereupon he was appointed as the Contractor of the warehouse for supply and rectified spirit for Government of Tripura for a period of 5years. He fulfilled all the necessary conditions of the license as well as the agreement made between the parties. But before the expiry of the license granted the Collector of Excise (respondent) allegedly wrongfully withdrew the license granted to the plaintiff as new provisions were added in the Tripura Excise rules 1962. The respondent claimed that the plaintiff had to pay the government due when the plaintiff tried to secure the deposit he had made initially as a condition of the agreement.
The plaintiff had filed the petition challenging the order passed by the Judicial Commissioner who stated that:
• The Excise Commissioner officer who had granted the license had full authority to withdraw the license under the interpretation of Sec 42 and Sec 43 of the Act.
• It laid down that the principle of ejusdem generis is applied if …. (1) the statute contains an enumeration of specific words; (2) the subjects, of the enumeration constitute- a class or category; (3) that class or, the category is not exhausted by the enumeration; (4) the general term follows the enumeration and (5) there is no
indication of a different legislative intent…..”
• It also stated that as trade and business are considered under a special category therefore it cannot be considered under Article 14 stating the freedom of trade and business.
These observations were considered to be conforming to the facts that were made during the legal proceeding in the apex court. The Supreme Court stated in its judgment that there was no scope for the appellant to challenge the decision made by the Judicial Commissioner under Art. 136. The court conferred to the observation made by the JC thus the appeal was dismissed.
• This particular case gave a clear interpretation of the rule of ejusdem generis. In the aforesaid case, the plaintiff questioned the power of the Excise Commissioner to withdraw the license. The contention made by the plaintiff was that the interpretation of “any cause other than” in Sec 43 had an arbitrariness that challenged the expression.
• It should be observed that the rule of interpretation states that the meaning of a certain section or a provision should be understood by keeping the intention of the legislature in mind.
• The numerous clauses of Sec.42 cannot be easily construed as constituted by one class or group.
• In the order passed by the Hon’ble court, it states that Liquor business having been governed under special regulatory laws and excise privilege cannot be considered under Art.14 as it may be pointed out, that it forbids class legislation but reasonable classification does not come within the prohibition. Thus the Excise authority has reasonable power to make a decision regarding this subject matter.
Interpretation of Statutes is important as these remove the ambiguity in construing the meaning that confers the object of the Act passed by the government. It is the rightful duty of the court to interpret and understand the purpose of the provisions and the words in the provision, to impart justice and fairness to the public. This case gave a vivid understanding of the applicability of an important principle.