Legal drafting is a way of preparing well-structured documents such as contracts, petitions, memorandums, wills, legislation, etc that are legally binding on everyone who signs such papers. Legal drafts are broad terms for such papers. Explanation and evaluation of such papers or drafts are considered an Interpretation of Legal Documents. It is critical that they are written in plain language so that the intended spectators can read and understand them. Furthermore, the courts have no scope for any interpretation other than the literal one. This helps in reducing complexities and ambiguity while interpreting legal documents. The more complicated and extended sentences attempt to cover numerous ideas at once rather than making a conscious effort to have each sentence serve one particular or specific purpose. The entire purpose of a legal draft is to be clear, precise, and accurate to express a point in comprehensive language. The best drafts contain clear and unambiguous language to avoid unnecessary or excessive use of abbreviations and absurdly long sentences.
Legal language differs from ordinary language, which is generally spoken and written by common people, as it employs specialised words and phrases that laymen do not use in daily conversations. Legal language includes foreign words from languages like Latin and French, making it difficult for laymen to understand and interpret them. The unnecessary use of extra words and long sentences makes the legal language more complex, which is often taken advantage of by companies and manipulative people to draft contracts in their favour. They make use of ambiguous and foreign words to obscure the finer details of the draft and take advantage of the other party. For example, in recent years, internet usage has skyrocketed. People use several social networking sites for both entertainment and profit. Before accessing the sites for their intended purposes, users must agree to the terms and conditions (regarding cookies, data sharing, etc) of these sites, which are sometimes difficult for users to grasp, resulting in conflicts originating from these terms and conditions. Therefore, the use of plain and straightforward language is being promoted in today’s world so that people can correctly interpret these legal drafts. A document written in a basic, direct language is easy to read and results in effective communication. The use of such language simplifies and transparently communicates the document’s terms to all parties. As a result, there is no opportunity for misinterpretation or disagreement, which aids in lowering and eliminating conflicts arising out of legal documents.
The first stage in creating a legal document is to fully grasp and appreciate the facts and context for which the document is being produced, as well as the laws that govern such facts and documents so that the document produced does not offend or violate any legal provision. The drafter should also pay close attention to the directions provided by the parties to such a document so that the document conveys the precise purpose for which it was written. After analysing the laws and comprehending the facts in the context of the document the next stage is to begin drafting the paper. This is accomplished, by gathering and summarising information and writing it down in a systematic, exact, and organised manner. The document so constructed should convey the exact meaning intended by the document’s parties based on legal interpretation.
Rules of Interpreting
While interpreting legal documents or statutes, one should keep in mind several rules like the Rule of harmonious construction. This rule considers that the provision of one statute does not defeat the purpose of other statutes. The goal should be to make the law whole and consistent. For e.g., in the Kesavananda Bharti v State of Kerela case, it was noted that Article 13 (2) of the Indian Constitution states that Parliament cannot amend the fundamental rights whereas Article 368 states that parliament can amend whatever they feel is necessary for our constitution. By applying the rule of harmonious construction, the Supreme Court of India gave a decision allowing parliament to amend the constitution according to the needs necessary, but the basic structure of the Constitution needs to be protected in all such scenarios.
The literal meaning of rule states that words given in any legal draft or statute should be interpreted in their natural and ordinary meaning. This rule is applied when the words of the statute are unambiguous and clear. This rule focuses that courts do not deviate from the literal meaning of the words used in legal drafts. The literal meaning rule is what the law says instead of what the law means.
The mischief rule of interpretation focuses on curing the mischief which was established in Heydon’s case (1584). This rule is applied when there is ambiguity in statutes or legal contracts. In this case, it was held that four important points should be kept in mind while interpreting legal documents:
- What was the common law before the making of an act
- What was the mischief for which the present legal draft is enacted
- What remedy did the parliament seek or had resolved and appointed to cure the problem
- The true reason for the remedy
In the case of Smith v Hughes (1960), the Smith had not acknowledged the likelihood of misunderstanding Hughes. An objective test revealed that an affordable person would expect the selling of excellent quality oats during a similar contract since there was no specific discussion about old oats. There had been no conversation between the parties about the delivery of old oats. By keeping in mind, the rule of mischief, it was determined by the court that Mr Smith and Mr Hughes had a contract and that they could not escape it.
Uncertainty and vagueness can prove to be harmful in a legal document as different people will interpret certain drafts differently. A clever person can find loopholes in ambiguous or unprecise drafts and use them in their favour. Such cases of misinterpretation have also been found in ancient texts, according to Hindu mythology Hiranyakashipu, an asura king, could not be slain by a human, god, or animal as Lord Brahma granted him a boon that rendered him practically immortal. Narasimha, on the other hand, was an incarnation that was both human and part animal, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. He assaulted Hiranyakashipu at twilight (neither day nor night) at the entrance of a courtyard (neither indoors nor outdoors) and placed the asura king on his thighs (neither earth nor in the air).He disembowelled and murdered the asura with his claws (which were neither alive nor non-living).
It can be concluded that Simple Legal Language is more favourable than generic legal language in legal documents because it helps avoid disputes, facilitates effective communication, saves time and money, and it boosts the revenue and profits of attorneys and companies that utilise such wording by improving transparency rather than adding more to the already complex legal world. Simple legal language would also assist the laymen in better grasp laws and the logic behind them. It would also aid in the reduction of needless conflicts, which slow down the judicial processes.
Author(s) Name: Zainul Abideen Khan (Savitribai Phule University, Pune)
 Kesavananda Bharti v State of Kerala (1973) 4 SCC 225
 Heydon’s Case (1584) 76 ER 637
 Smith v Hughes (1871) LR 6 QB 597