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Noscitur a Sociis

 Noscitur a Sociis

Law can be interpreted in various forms. The law has it is own language which is interpreted by the lawyers in due course of time but the law also has some loopholes which are interpreted by the court in various judgments using various legal maxims.

One of the legal maxims is noscitur a socii, this doctrine is also known as the rule of construction. This is a Latin maxim that means unclear or ambiguous words in a statute should be determined by considering the words with which it is associated in the context.

This means that every word has a place in every sentence, which means that a word can be interpreted in two ways one denotation and two connotations. Denotation is referring to the exact meaning of the word whereas connotation means the word derives its meaning from the placement of the words.  This maxim is considered to be the subsidiary rule of the interpretation. As stated above it is a Latin maxim, in Latin noscitur means knowing, a means with and socii means association so if put together it means knowing with the association.

This rule is applied when the question arises when a word or phrase is in question and cannot be interpreted in isolation. There is another legal maxim called, "quo non-Valeant singular juna juvant"  which stands for words that are ineffective when taken singly operate when taken conjointly.

This rule can be best explained with an example, “the meaning of a word is to b judged by the company it keeps ". This means that if person A is shy and introverted, and loves books it will be perceived that he will have the same company and his friend will be of the same nature.

This rule was applied in the case of the Commissioner of Income Tax v. Bharti Cellular, in this case, the term technical services which was used in section 194J of the income tax act was in question, it was witnessed that this term was very unclear.  The technical services could be interpreted in 2 forms known as managerial services and consultancy services. In this case, this rule was applied, the word technical would also have to be construed as involving a human element. Thus, interconnection & port access services rendered by the assessee do not involve any human interface & therefore cannot be regarded as technical services.  The intention is to be ascertained by looking at adjoining words or expressions occurring at other parts of the same instrument.

Case: Pradeep Agarbatti v. the State of Punjab, in this case, this rule was applied, to understand will aggarbatti comes in the same category as perfume, in this case, the apex court said that it is the same category as the government notification, states item 37 and defines the perfume and according to that, it falls in the same category. In this case, the firm had filed their quarterly return at 6% rather it should be charged at 10%, as section 5 (1) proviso states that schedule A should be taxed at 10 % after the government notification, and perfume and aggarbatti are mentioned in schedule A. As stated above perfumes were mentioned in the government notification but it didn't specify aggarbatti, therefore after applying this rule, it should be charged at 10% and not 6%.


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