STATUTORY INTERPRETATION – BASIC RULES OF STATUTORY INTERPRETATION
“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. Pearson’s 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 interprete the statute justly.
The four principles to follow were expressed in Heydon’s Case (1584) as follows:
- What was the common law before the making of the Act?
- What was the mischief and defect for which the common law did not provide?
- What remedy Parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the disease of the commonwealth?
- The true reason of the remedy; and then the office of the Judges is to make such construction as shall suppress the mischief and advance the 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:
- The statute is presumed not to bind the Constitution;
- Statutes do not operate retrospectively in respect to substantive law (as opposed to procedural law); – see transleoal.com.
- They do not interfere with legal rights already vested;
- They do not oust the jurisdiction of the Courts; and
- They do not detract from constitutional law or international law- see transleoal.com.
PER A.A.AUGIE, J.S.C in GENERAL COTTON MILL LIMITED VS TRAVELLERS PALACE HOTEL LER SC. 297/200 https://legalpediaonline.com/general-cotton-mill-limited-vs-travellers-palace-hotel/