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Use Mimansa principles: judges

Legal Correspondent

‘These principles are rational, scientific and can be utilised in the legal field’

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has called for liberal use of Mimansa Principles of Interpretation (MPI) in interpreting and understanding the statutes and provisions of law.

A Bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice A.K. Ganguly in its order said “MIP which were our traditional principles of interpretation for over 2,500 years, but which are unfortunately ignored in our Courts of law today. It is deeply regrettable that in our Courts of law, lawyers quote Maxwell and Craies but nobody refers to the MPI. Most lawyers would not have even heard of their existence. Today our so-called educated people are largely ignorant about the great intellectual achievements of our ancestors and the intellectual treasury which they have bequeathed us.”

The Bench said “the MPI is part of that great intellectual treasury, but it is distressing to note that apart from the reference to these principles in the judgment of Sir John Edge, the then Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court in Beni Prasad vs. Hardai Bibi, a hundred years ago and in some judgments of one of us [M. Katju, J.] there has been almost no utilisation of these principles even in our own country. Most of the Mimansa Principles are rational and scientific and can be utilised in the legal field.”

Universal application

The Bench said “the Mimansa Principles were our traditional system of interpretation of legal texts. Although originally they were created for interpreting religious texts [pertaining to the Yagya sacrifice], gradually they came to be utilised for interpreting legal texts and also for interpreting texts on philosophy, grammar, etc. i.e. they became of universal application. Thus, Shankaracharya has used the Mimansa adhikaranas in his bhashya on the Vedanta sutras. There were hundreds of books [all in Sanskrit] written on the subject, though only a few dozens have survived the ravages of time, but even these show how deep our ancestors went into the subject of interpretation.”

The Bench in the instant case used MPI to interpret Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act. The Maharashtra government issued a notification under Section 6 of the LAA and the question arose whether it was barred by limitation or not. The present appeal was against a Bombay High Court judgment rejecting a writ petition against the notification.

Appeal allowed

Allowing the appeal, the Bench said “In our opinion, when the language of the Statute is plain and clear then the literal rule of interpretation has to be applied and there is ordinarily no scope for consideration of equity, public interest or seeking the intention of the legislature. It is only when the language of the Statute is not clear or ambiguous or there is some conflict etc. or the plain language leads to some absurdity that one can depart from the literal rule of interpretation. In our opinion, the said Notification was clearly barred by limitation.”

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