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The most comprehensive coverage on the construction of Statutes. It includes parts of statutes,Extrinsic-Aids,Intrinsic aids, Reading down, Amendments,Repeals,codifications,Quasi-Judicial agencies,Non-obstante clause,Mandatory/Declatory provisions,Tax ,Beneficial, Criminal,Fiscal Statute's Interpretation and sub-ordinate legislations.Besides it contains the Rules of Interpretation and the Role of Judiciary.Citations are in abundance.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chapter-9 part-3

The Literal Rule

The meaning of the rule is clear from its language.The words are to be interpreted in the literal fashion irrespective of the consequences.This rule stated that the words of a statute must be given their ordinary meaning, no matter what the result. This also showed the attitude of the judiciary to their role vis a vis Parliament, as Tindal C.J. said in the Sussex Peerage Claim[1]:

“The only rule for the construction of Acts of Parliament, is that they should be construed according to the intent of the Parliament which passed the Act. If the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous, then no more can be necessary than to expound those words in that natural and ordinary sense[2]. The words themselves alone do, in such cases, best declare the intention of the lawgiver”.

Some of the Courts took an extreme interpretation of the literal rule, which had almost an “Alice in Wonderland” quality to it. Lord Esher M.R. in R v The Judge of the City of London Court [3] stated “If the words of an Act are clear, you must follow them, even though they lead to a manifest absurdity. The Court has nothing to do with the question whether the Legislature has committed an absurdity.” This view was reinforced in Vacher & Sons Ltd v London Society of Compositors,[4] where Lord Atkinson said:

“If the language of a statute be plain, admitting of only one meaning, the Legislature must be taken to have meant and intended what it has plainly expressed, and whatever it has in clear terms enacted must be enforced though it should lead to absurd or mischievous results. If the language of this sub-section be not controlled by some of the other provisions of the statute, it must, since its language is plain and unambiguous, be enforced, and your Lordship's House sitting judicially is not concerned with the question whether the policy it embodies is wise or unwise, or whether it leads to consequences just or unjust, beneficial or mischievous.”

[1](1844) 11 Cl & Fin 85, 143.

[2] Applied in Cheung Chun-man [1957] HKLR 500, 503.

[3] [1892] 1 QB 273 9 CA.

[4] [1913] AC 107, 121-2.

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