Laws and legislations are made keeping in mind the best interests of the people. Every important word or term in an act/ legislation/ statute has a certain meaning which is assigned to it by the makers of those acts. However, while deciding cases, the interpretations of the makers and of the executors may differ and this can lead to inconsistencies of law. Therefore, certain rules of interpretation of statues need to be abided. One such rule is stated through the maxim ‘Noscitur a sociis’
The word ‘Noscere’ means ‘to know’ and ‘Sociis’ means ‘association’ hence Noscitur a sociis is a Latin expression which means ‘the meaning of a word may be known from accompanying/ associating words.’ This rule of interpretation is used when an important term is stated ambiguously in a statute or when a word cannot be explained on its own, or is not properly defined, it can be understood in terms of the other words that it is read out with.
In the Case Commissioner of Income Tax v. Bharti Cellular, the term ‘technical services’ was under question. It was held in this case that this term as defined in section 194J of the Income Tax Act was ambiguous and therefore it has to be understood by the meaning of the words that come before and after it. Two of such words were ‘managerial services’ & ‘consultancy services’ and therefore it was held that the term ‘technical services’ would also involve tasks of human involvement.
Such is the use and interpretation of this maxim. Other cases that can be used to see the application of this maxim are:
Mangoo Singh v. Election Tribunal AIR 1957 SC 871
Parsons Brinckerhoff India (P.) Ltd. vs. Asstt. DIT (Int. Tax)
Pradeep Agarbatti, Ludhiana v. State of Punjab AIR 1998 SC 171