PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE – DUTY OF COURTS IN THE INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE
Topic starter May 6, 2020 11:26 am
"Without question, the Court is enjoined to interpret statutes as they are without going outside it to bring in what the Court would think was intended. I shall refer to some dicta of this Court in that wise. See Obi V INEC & Ors. (2007) LPELR-2166 (SC) wherein Aderemi JSC put it admirably thus:-
‘The intention of the legislature, or put bluntly, the intention of National Assembly at the Federal level or the State House of Assembly at the State level, is not to be judged by what is in its mind but by its expression of that mind couched in the words of the statute. If at the end of the interpretative exercise carried out on the provisions of statute or constitution, a judex's personal conviction as to where the justice and rightness of the matter lies is returned, that would make the judiciary lose its credibility, authority and its legitimacy...’
Interestingly, the appellant cited G.C.M. Ltd V Travellers Palace Hotel (2019) 6 NWLR (PT.1669) 507 at 530-531 per Augie JSC:
"There are also three basic rules of statutory-interpretation – the Literal Rule is the first rule applied by judges. Here, Judges rely on the exact wording of a statute for the case. They will be read literally and the judges will take the ordinary and natural meaning of a word and apply it, even if doing so, creates an absurd result. The next rule is the Golden Rule, which is a modification of the Literal Rule, to be used to avoid an absurd outcome. It is used where the literal rule produces a result, where lawmakers intention would be circumvented, rather than applied. This rule was defined by Lord Wensleydale in Grey v Pearsons case (1857) as: 'The grammatical and ordinary sense of the words is to be adhered to, unless that would lead to some absurdity or some repugnance or inconsistency with the rest of the instrument, in which case the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words may be modified, so as to avoid the absurdity and inconsistency, but no farther. The last rule is the mischief rule, which gives Judges the most discretion of all and it is intended to rectify "mischief" in the statute and interpret the statute justly. The four principles to follow were expressed in Heydon's case (1958) as follows: -
(i) What was the common law before the making of the Act?
(ii) What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide?
(iii) What remedy parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the common wealth? The true reason of the remedy, and then the office of the Judges is to make such construction as shall suppress the mischief and the advance remedy. In addition to these three rules of statutory interpretation, there are other rules that are held to apply when determining the meaning of a statute, and these include:
(i) The statute is presumed not to bind the Constitution;
(ii) Statutes do not operate retrospectively in respect to substantive law (as opposed to procedural law); - see http://translegal.com&source=gmail&ust=1588847630715000&usg=AFQjCNEw0tufEouOOuOGzc-9JJfxuGOWf A">translegal.com
(iii) They do not interfere with legal rights already vested;
(iv) They do not oust the jurisdiction of the Courts; and
(v) They do not detract from constitutional law or international law see translegal.com.’"
- PER M. U. PETER-ODILI IN INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION v. ABBA KABIR YUSUF & ORS SC.972/2019 (CONSOLIDATED)