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Aakritu   28 February 2022

Legal maxim

Where does the maxim of "Contemporanea Expositio Est Optima Et Fortissimo In Lege" finds its use and where does it not? Kindly explain with the help of appropriate examples.


 1 Replies

Aarushi   28 February 2022

The maxim Contemporanea Expositio Est Optima Et Fortissimo In Lege literally says that Contemporaneous exposition is the best and strongest law. The maxim is used while interpreting statutes, usually ancient ones and basically states that the statutes should be interpreted keeping in mind the thoughts of the people of that time when a statute was passed and also only giving that meaning to the words which were prevalent when that statute was passed. Thus, it is always safer to pay greater heed to the interpretation of the judges who were present at the time when the statute was passed or who came just after or before the statute was passed, because they knew the conditions of the state when the said act was enacted. This maxim was confirmed by the Supreme Court in the case of Desh Bandhu Gupta v. Delhi Stock Exchange Asson Ltd. Lord Coke said that a continuous practice of the same usage of a statute shows that the practise was based on correctly understanding of the Law. However, while applying this maxim, they have to make sure that it is only applied in cases where an ambiguity regarding the interpretation of ancient laws arises, if there is no such ambiguity, the maxim of Contemporanea Expositio Est Optima Et Fortissimo In Lege cannot be applied.

JK Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mills Ltd. & Anr. v. Union of India and Ors.

The appellant had a mill where fabrics of different types were manufactured which required the constant supply of different yarns. The appellants had to pay excise duty for these yarns. In this case, the appellants held that they were only liable to pay excise duty when the yarns have not removed from the factory and not at the intermediary stage when the Collector of Central excise duty was demanding. They pleaded Contemporanea Exposito for the proper interpretation of the rule. The Court held that the Central Excise rules were clear in their wording and thus the maxim of Contemporanea Expositio Est Optima Et Fortissimo In Lege cannot be applied, the appeal was accordingly handled.

National Textile Corporation, New Delhi & Anr. v. Swadeshi Mining and Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Lucknow & Ors.

The question in this case whether the shared held in the name of Swadeshi Polytex Ltd. And Swadeshi Mining and Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Came under the Central Government under Section 3 of the Swadeshi Cotton Mills Co. Ltd. (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings) Act, 1986 or not. Section 3 of the said Act clearly says every textile undertaking would be transferred to the Central Government under this Act. Thus, the Court held that the words of the statute were sufficient and unambiguous and the maxim of Contemporanea Expositio Est Optima Et Fortissimo In Lege cannot be applied here. The appeal was accordingly dismissed.

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