Interpretation of Law, Definition and Kinds, Literal & Functional

Fri, 09/02/2011 - 09:36 -- Umar Farooq

Definition of Interpretation of Law

Salmond defines interpretation “Interpretation or construction is the process by which the courts seek to ascertain the meaning of legislation through the medium of the authoritative form in which it is expressed.”

Kinds of Interpretation of Law

There are two kinds of interpretation,

  1. Literal Or Grammatical Interpretation
  2. Functional Or Logical Interpretation

Literal Or Grammatical Interpretation

It is the general rule of interpretation that judges are not at liberty to add to or to take from or modify the letters of the law. And they are required not to look beyond the language of the law. This is the best mode of construction in preference to other modes because the courts must in general take it absolutely for granted that the legislature has said what is meant, what it has said.

Functional Or Logical Interpretation

It is that interpretation which deports from the letter of the law and seeks elsewhere for some other and more satisfactory evidence of the true intention of the legislation.  It is done because of

  • An ambiguity (where there are two or more possible meanings)
  • Inconsistency (where two different portions are opposed catch other)
  • Incompleteness (where there is lacuna in the law itself).
  • Where there is a logical defect in the spirit of law.