constitutional law

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Rules Of Interpretation Being Required By Courts

‘Once the new statute came into being it has to be applied and given effect’. Court’s constitutional function is to apply the statute and find out the intention of the parliament. Judges have to determine the meaning of the legislation to apply the legislation. On the other hand, it is not possible to outline a legislation which covers all circumstances and hold no likely disagreement in relation to its application.

Judges may face difficulty where ‘it comes before them to decide how the wording of the statute should be interpreted’. [2] These difficulties may be due to; firstly, the fluidity of the language and words or phrase may change their meaning depending on circumstance. Judges have to decide which of various meaning they should apply depending to the circumstances. For example, in Fisher v Bell, [3] ‘it is an offence to offer for sale certain offensive weapons’. [4] The question in front of court was to analyse that ‘Offer for sale’ include the display of a flick knife. Court Held that display is not an offer but an invitation to treat.

Secondly, the draftsman may use abbreviation instead of certain words. ‘Here, draftsman refrains from using certain words that he or she regarded as necessarily implied’. [5] Thirdly, that the legislation is ambiguous or meaningless due to its poor drafting and printing errors in drafting. The language used in legislation did not cover the situation facing the court. These problems arise where draftsman did not foresee the situation. For example, in Re M, [6] court was dealing with child welfare. The statute provides that ‘where a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm’. [7] The child was in such danger but situations were different at the trail time. Lord Templeman gives importance to the spirit of the act over the language used.

When judiciary faces problems in interpreting legislation, they use variety of different rules to resolve these problems. These rules are known as rules of construction or rules of interpretation. These rules are not legal rules and are not regulated by parliament. These rules provide the guidance on how to interpret legislation. [8] 

2: Purposive Approach

The purposive approach has been implemented where the literal approach failed to produce sufficient intention and if there is absurdity in the language of the Act of the Parliament. Purposive approach is a based on mischief rule. Purposive approach seeks to identify the purpose of the legislation. Judges use purposive approach to find out the purpose of all new Acts of Parliament to apply it on the cases arises in front of courts. [9] The purposive approach give judges a wide authority to find out the meaning of the legislation. The role of the judges may include the authority to look away from the words of legislation in search of the explanation for its endorsement. This should be done to discover the intention of the parliament and to give effect to the legislation.

Purposive approach highlights the requirement to construct the wording of legislation in its wider circumstance, to give it effect. Language used in different legislation expresses meaning depending on the circumstances. ‘It follows that the context must always be identified and considered before the process of construction or during it’. [10] In the case of Shah V Barnet London Borough Council, [11] House of Lords provided direction to the circumstances in which purposive approach could be adopted. They concluded that this could be lawfully used to find out the clear appearance of the legislative intention in statute.

Courts may go legitimately beyond the language of the statute where it does not provide the meaning to cover factual situation. The court of appeal in Magor and St. Melons Rural District Council V Newport Corporation, [12] ‘expressed views that the judicial function of the courts is to find out the intention of the Parliament and Ministers and carry it out by filling the gaps and making sense of the enactment’.

Purposive and literal interpretation is not equally exclusive. It is because of literal meaning will not be able to resolve ambiguity. Courts main responsibility is to adopt purposive approach to understand the words of an Act of Parliament. Lord Hoffman explained In MacNiven v Westmoreland Investment, [13] that there is only rule of interpretation, which can determine what the Parliament intention from the language used in the legislation.

3: Teleological Approach

It is one of the rules implemented by European courts. It gives importance to the spirit of legislation rather than words and purpose. ‘The teleological approach requires that the spirit of legislation, rather than merely its purpose, is considered. It is therefore much broader then the purposive approach.’ [14] European legislation is not drafted thorough method of domestic legislation but it is outlined in broad rules. Courts adopt a teleological approach to find out the spirit of the legislation and treaties. This approach is important when dealing with European legislation. The way of interpretation of United Kingdom courts and European courts are different.

After the criticism by of the law commission report on literal rule and restriction of the golden rule, the courts of United Kingdom start to adopt teleological approach. But this adoption is limited because teleological approach basically focused on jurisprudence of the European Court. It is eminent in Clifit case [15] that’ every provision of community law must be placed in its context and interpreted in the light of community law as a whole. In Hoekstra Case, [16] European Court interprets the word ‘wage Earner in article 19 of council regulation’. They said its meaning is refers to independence of employees. The court interprets the word in a wide sense to contain who are employed and who are not.

European courts interpret EC treaties under the purpose which is constructed in treaties. In some situations teleological approach directed courts to focus on particular words of statute. The House of Lords in the case of Pickstone v Freemans plc, [17] held that it was appropriate to construct the equal pay in a broader sense to find out a decision, that is consistent with united kingdom commitment under community law. United Kingdom courts should implement teleological approach make decisions under the Competition Act. United Kingdom courts try to fill the gaps of legislation by using the purposive approach. A very significant difficulty that United Kingdom courts face adopting teleological approach is the parliament in UK is supreme. The Courts may have to consider both the European system and the parliament of the United Kingdom. They will get pressure from both bodies when making and developing any legislation.

4: Rules of Language

There are a number of rules known as rules of language. Courts may rely on these rules of language to support in statutory interpretation. These rules are generally referred as Latin tags in statutory interpretation and are not legal rules.

Ejusdem Generis

The word Ejusdem Generis classify to words relate to a specific kind of things. It is used where broad words follow a list of particular words then the broad word must be read according to the same type of the words. In Powell v Kempton Racecourse, [18] the court held that the word ‘other place’ stand for other indoor place for the reason that list specified to a house, office, room. In Allen V Emerson, [19] provides in order to apply this type, statute must refer to at least two words and a judge must make an effort to specify the capacity of the word to avoid confusion.

Noscitur a Sociis

It is related to Ejusdem Generis and is known as a word whose meaning is affected by its surroundings. This rule requires the courts to think about the adjacent word which compose the condition. The words with the same meaning should be interpreted in relative to each other. These words may be located from different areas of the legislation. Noscitur a Sociis have broad application than the rule of Ejusdem generis rule. In Pengelley v Bell Punch Co Ltd, [20] the court of appeal held that world floors in the appearance floors, stairs, gangways and steps, which need to be kept clear and it is not applicable on factory floor usually used for storage. The words listed contradict such colouration.

Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius

The meaning of this term is that ‘express of one thing is to exclude others’. This rule refers in legislation where to include some class and to exclude other class. This type cannot include those groups that are misplaced from legislation. It was held in Tempest v kilner, [21] that goods and merchandise did not comprise financial stock and shares. Where a statute have pair of expressions, the term of broad meaning may be include and term which is less broad may be excluded Usually it shows that if legislature use particular words its mean exclude all other words.

5: Judges are often accused of ‘making law’

In most of the country’s government have three arms which are Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. Legislature has authority to make new laws. Executive perform duty to implement and enforce laws passed by legislature. Judiciary is the third arm of the government; they interpret laws passed by parliament. Judges decide cases in accordance with law and circumstances. They cannot make any decision for their own purpose but for the will of people. When courts declare their decisions, they frequently accused of making law because they are not legislative arm.

Common law is a source of law in English Legal System and it came into being through the precedent system. In past centuries law was applied without reference of any statutory source. ‘The constitutional fiction was that judges merely declared what the law was, as though it was already there and merely had to be discovered.’ [22] In today’s word it is accepted that can produce new law according to circumstances. This law is known as common law which is usually related to the needs of the public. ‘Rules of precedent are planned for the effectiveness of fundamental rules that English law is to a large extent based on case law.’ [23] Case law made up with regulations and main beliefs which judges used in completion of decisions.

In United Kingdom, a major source of law is based on entirely on decisions of different cases. Common law plays an important part in interpretation of the legislation of the parliament. In England precedents have a particular significance because any decisions that will affect the Supremacy of Parliament. Parliament in United Kingdom is sovereign and has authority to abolish any decisions of courts which goes against it. Judges make such decisions because legislation is developed to cover only those events which occur after the development of statute. They represent entire phrase of different disputes. To understand such difficulties of statutes judges make rules about a particular case.

As the parliament is sovereign, there are no limits sets out by law to the power of parliament. Courts cannot refuse to enforce an act of parliament. Any decision of court cannot abolish any act of parliament. Parliament may abolish any part of case law and replaced them by statutory rules.