The meaning of this Latin maxim is that the words used in the statute are to be understood in their lawful sense.  Here, lawful means what is not considered as illegal or illegitimate by law. Thus, everything that is sanctioned or recognized by law is regarded as lawful. For example, when any property is attached in the execution of the decree passed by a Court then the attachment of the property is a lawful act. When any fine is levied on any land it has to be lawfully levied.


The construction in Bonam Partem is based on three principles which are as follows-

  1. A person should never get any profit from his own wrong act.
  2. The second principle precludes from succeeding if a person has to prove an unlawful act to claim statutory benefit.
  3. Whenever a grant is given it should not include any unlawful act.

If two constructions can be made out of the words of the Statute ,one giving legal and other giving illegal interpretation then the principle of Bonam Partem says that the one which gives legal interpretation must be given effect. Thus, when a statute refers to a thing to be done means that it refers to only legal things which can be done in lawful manner.


R. v/s HULME-

This is the leading case law on this maxim. In this case the statute provided that “Where any witness shall answer every question relating to the matters aforesaid, the Commissioner who is appointed to inquire about the corrupt election practices should issue him a certificate which would give him to certain immunity” Here, the words “shall answer every question” were in question.

Justice Blackburn asked that if the person knowingly gives wrong answers and his false answers turn down the commission and its inquiry in contempt then is the person still eligible to get the immunity. The court held that if a person gives false answers then he is not entitled to the immunity. Further, the court held that when under an Act Legislature requires a person to answer some questions then it is expected from that person that he answers all the questions correctly to the best of his knowledge.  He is entitled to the immunity granted by the certificate only if he says the truth.

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