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Interpretation of Penal Statues

  • Date Submitted: 05/19/2014 08:12 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 57.8 
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In a penal law if there appears to be a reasonable dubiety or ambiguity, it shall be decided in favour of the person who would be liable to the penalisation. If a penal provision fairly be so construed as to avoid the punishment, it must be so interpreted. If there can be two reasonable interpretations of a penal provision, the more lenient should be made applicable. Punishment can be meted to one only if the plain words extension of the meaning of the word is allowable. A penalty cannot be imposed on the basis that the object of the statute so desired. According to Maxwell[1], “the prerequisite of express language for the creation of an offence, in interpreting strictly words setting out the elements of an offence in requiring the fulfilment to the letter of statutory conditions precedent to the infliction of punishment; and in insisting on the strict observance of technical provisions concerning criminal procedure and jurisdiction.”
Unless the words of a statute clearly made an act criminal, it shall not be construed as criminal. If there is any ambiguity in the words which set out the elements of an act or omission declared to be an offence, so that it is doubtful whether the act or omission falls within the statutory words, the ambiguity will be resolved in favour of the person charged.[2] The court will inflict punishment on a person only when the circumstances of the case fall unambiguously fall under the letter of the law. Legislation which deals with the jurisdiction and the procedure relation to imposition of the penalties will be strictly construed.   Where certain procedural requirements have been laid down by a statute to be completed in a statute dealing with punishments, the court is duty bound to see that all these requirements have been complied with before sentencing the accused. In case of any doubt the benefit has to go to the accused even up to the extent of acquitting him on some technical...


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