HEYDON’S CASE : AN ANALYSIS
HEYDON’S CASE (1583) pre-SCJA 1873: AN ANALYSIS
The concept of interpretation of a Statute cannot be a static one. Though “Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes” is a virtual Bible for analysing the concept, even still, courts have departed from the principles laid down therein depending upon the social needs of the community, economic exigencies of time and several other factors. One of the controversial areas in which courts had to interpret the taxing statute is relating to the retrospective operation of the statute. This can be viewed with the background of various amendments made in sections 115J, 115JA and 115JB of the Income-tax Act, 1961. Let us look at some of the decided cases dealing with interpretation of retrospective nature of an amendment.
The mischief rule, the oldest of the rules of interpretation, reflects a balance of the legislative and judicial powers which some consider renders it inapplicable today. It presumes a legal system in which legislative intervention in the common law is an exceptional occurrence, used only to address a "mischief" or "defect" in the common law. Though it may be expressed in outdated terms, however, the rule bears similarities to the purposive and schematic approaches to interpretation which have been developed by modern day courts. The mischief rule has been given legislative force in a number of common law jurisdictions and is still cited by the courts. The rule was recently referred to in the Irish High Court, where Budd J identified the need to examine "the mischief sought to be addressed by the passing of An Blascaod Mór National Historic Park Act, 1989.” The mischief rule was set out in Heydon's case, where it was held that four matters might be considered in the interpretation of statutes:
1. "What was the common law before the making of an Act;
2. What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide; 3. What was the remedy the parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the commonwealth; 4. The true reason of the remedy.
And then the office of all the judges is always to make such construction as shall suppress the mischief, and advance the remedy and to suppress subtle inventions and evasions for continuance of the mischief, and pro privato commodo , and to add force and life to the cure and remedy, according to the true intent of the makers of the Act, pro bono publico ."
Heydon's Case (1584) 76 ER 637, Pasch 26 Eliz, plea began 20 Eliz Rot 140, is a landmark case. The case is considered a landmark because it was the first case to use what would come to be called the mischief rule for the interpretation of statutes. The mischief rule is more flexible than the Golden or Literal rule, in that the mischief rule requires judges to look over four tasks to ensure that gaps within the law are covered.
In Heydon’s Case, in 1584, it was resolved by the Barons of the Exchequer “that for the sure and true interpretation of all statutes in general (be they penal or beneficial, restrictive or enlarging of the common law) four things are to be discerned and considered: (1) What was the common law before the making of the Act (2) What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide, (3) What remedy the Parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the commonwealth, and, (4) The true reason of the remedy; and then the office of all the Judges is always to make such construction as shall suppress the mischief, and advance the remedy, and to suppress subtle inventions and evasions for continuance of the mischief, and pro private commodo, and to add force and life to the cure and remedy, according to the true intent of the makers of the Act, pro bono publico”. In 1898, Lindley M.R: said: “In order properly to interpret any statute it is as necessary now as it...