Literal interpretation to be followed when two words of different import are used in statute in two consecutive provisions suggesting deliberate usage

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Gita Mittal, Actg. CJ  and C. Hari Shankar, J., allowed a writ petition filed by the petitioner, an architect, for the removal of Respondent 4 from the Board of Governors of the School of Planning & Architecture (‘SPA’).

The SPA is an Institution of National Importance under the School of Planning & Architecture Act, 2014 (‘the Act’). It provides exclusive training in different aspects of human habitat and environment. Section 12 of the Act provides that authorities of Delhi Schools covered by the Act, shall include a Board of Governors and a Senate. The Board of Governors, by virtue of Section 13 of the Act, is the principal executive body of the particular School in question. Respondent 4 was nominated as a Member of the Board under clause (d) of Section 13(2) of the Act as a “representative from the Council of Architecture to be nominated by the President of the Council of Architecture” vide impugned communication dated 06.03.2017 by Respondent 1.

The petitioner contends that Respondent 4 does not qualify for the nomination by virtue of which he holds office as he was not a member of the Council of Architecture (‘Council’) within the meaning of Section 3 of the Act. The respondents pleaded that an interpretation be adopted so that ‘Council of Architecture’ does not strictly mean a member of the Council, but a registered architect. The Court found that the phrasing and usage of the words “of” and “from” in various provisions of Section 13 was deliberate, and it would be an interpretive folly on part of the court to read the provision as anything different from what the literal interpretation suggested. Consequently, the nomination of Respondent 4 was set aside as he was not a member of the Council. Petition allowed. [Sudhir Vohra v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine Del 6424, decided on 05.01.2018]

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