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March 2024

Punctuations and Grammar

By Sunil Gabhawalla | Rishabh Singhvi | Parth Shah, Chartered Accountants
Reading Time 31 mins


Interpretation of statutes is a work of art and not an exact science. Although we are equipped with a deep legacy of interpretative principles, the derivation of “Intent of legislature” has always been a vexed question. Interpretative skills warrant travelling beyond explicit words to extract the underlying intent. In the process of evolution of a legal word, clause, sentence, sub-section or section, attention is also paid to the punctuation marks in between such sentences to validate the interpretation emerging from the plain wordings. Similarly, the curious question of “AND” being read as “OR” or vice-versa has left many legal luminaries perplexed. The article is an attempt to address both these matters in tandem.


The thought about this subject occurred on reading the case of CCE vs. Shapoorji Pallonji1 where the Supreme Court, affirming the decision of the Patna High Court, relied upon punctuation marks to interpret an enactment. The dispute in the case was on the taxability of works contract services rendered to IITs/NITs established under a special enactment of the Government to render educational activities. While there was no dispute on the aspect of Government supervision, the exemption was applicable only if t

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