Rules that courts apply in interpretation of statutes

Explain three rules courts apply in the interpretation of statutes

Rules courts apply in interpretation of statutes

  • Literal rule: Under this rule the word of a statute should be interpreted according to the ordinary dictionary or grammatical meaning.
  • Golden rule: When the application of the literal rule leads to ambiguity, the wording of the statute should be modified in such a way to as to remove the ambiguity arising from the literal interpretation of the statute.
  • Mischief rule: Under this rule, the court will examine the statute to determine the mischief (wrong) that existed before the statute was formed and for which the law had no remedy. The judge should then adopt such an interpretation that is aimed at correcting the mischief.
  • Ejusdem generis rule: Where general words in a statute follow particular words, the general words are to be considered as being limited to persons/things within the class designated by particular words i.e. Where reference is made to cows/goats or other animals the general words ‘other animals’ would be interpreted to mean animals of the same genius.
  • Noscitor a sociis (contextual) rule: Means that a thing is known by its associates, thus the meaning of words can be known or recognized by associated words. Where the meaning of the thing can be known from the group it keeps.



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