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The Rules Of Statutory Interpretation

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With reference to the rules of statutory interpretation and the doctrine of binding precedent, to what extent do UK judges trespass on the proper function of Government and the Legislature when exercising their legal decision-making functions?





The theory of separation of power exists in the system of United Kingdom. Separation of power means the three organs of the Government that is legislature, execute and judiciary must work independently. No department will overlap the function of other. The legislature has the duty to make the law, executive will apply those laws and Judiciary will interpret those laws. The judiciary played a vital role of interpreting the law. On that occasion some time judiciary will apply its mind to find out the best possible way to interpret the law. But in this process some time judges will apply the according to the need of the case. The rule is that judiciary will interpret the law according to the intention with which the legislators prepare the law. But using the principle of statutory interpretation the judges in UK some time apply the law according their own view that is direct overlapping between the function of two organ of government.

Principle of statutory interpretation:

This is a process in which judges of the court construe and relate the legislations. The interpretation of the statute is essential the case involves any piece or part of the specific Act. If the meaning of the legislation is unambiguous and strait then the interpretations are also plain and simple but if the meaning are vague and involves lots of ambiguity then the judges have to play more responsible role in interpreting the statute.  For finding the connotation of the particular statue judges have various instrument in that regard like statutory interpretation, lawmaking history, and finding the purpose of the legislation. In jurisdictions of common law, the courts may perhaps concern about the rules of legislative elucidation to those laws endorsed by the parliament or by the authority in exercise of delegated legislation in cases of executive rules.


The work of the judiciary is to interprets the legislations in a way so that in can be applicable for any particular case. No legislation is called to be so unambiguous that it can fit for each and every case.  There are various reasons for the ambiguity like the words of the legislation are not so clear to understand the intention, or the legislation is not competent to fulfill all the requirements of the case like technical advancement and all, or doubts attached to the law from the time of enactment. For all these mentioned matters statutory interpretation is required. There is a principle that the parliament is ultimate in case of making regulation and the courts are just acted as analyst of those regulations. However in reality while executing the role of interpreter the judges can formulate comprehensive alteration in the execution of the Act.

If there are conflicts between the sources of law:

The rule of statutory interpretation will be applicable where there are conflicts between the Acts and the precedential case laws. It is assumed that legislation will be predominant over the precedential case laws by the court. This is called as parliamentary supremacy in United Kingdom.

Rule of Ejusdem Generis:

The whole statute must be considered as a whole. If a part is inconsistent then that part must be interpreted in the light of the whole statute. A law cannot be construed in an attempt to be incompatible with other prevail laws. Wherever there is an irregularity the judges must give effort to supply a harmonious construction on that scenario.

There are main three rules in regard to statutory interpretation. They are plain meaning rule, golden rule and mischief rule of construction. The plain meaning rule means the statutes must be interpreted in simple way according to its meaning. In the case of Sussex Peerage Case the decision was come out that the interpretation must be done according to the intention of the law maker which reflects from the legislation. When the statues are clear cut in meaning there is no need to incorporate any kind of construction which can change the meaning of the statute. In the case of Whiteley v. Chappel, gave a verdict that the person named as Whiteley could not be imprisoned under the clause that every individual is allowed to take part in an election, for the reason that the individual whom he includes was a deceased person. By means of a factual interpretation of the applicable legislative stipulation that the dead man was not included in the term of an individual allowed to take part in an election. Obviously it is not the purpose of legislative body. Though, the above mentioned literal construction can only be applicable when the words are used in simple and plain form. Pepper v Hart was a land mark case in this regard. In this case the court allowed adding references in cases where there is absurdity attached o any legislation or not.


The golden rule allows a judge to depart from a word's normal meaning in order to avoid an absurd result.The principle called golden rule originated near about in 1854 and involve a new range of modification in the rule of interpretation. This rule makes harmonious construction between the rule of lateral meaning and mischief rule. This rule generally advocates for the plain and simple meaning of the word of the legislature but whenever there is ambiguity judges will apply their mind to fix it up to the mark. In Becke v. Smith case Parke J commented that it is necessary and useful principle of interpretation to hold the normal meaning of the statute unless there is a discrepancy with the intention of the law makers. To remove irrationality the words statute can be varied or modified to remove the inconsistency.

In Grey v. Pearson it was commented by Lord Wensleydale that in case of all the written legal document normal grammatical meaning must be incorporated. But if there in inconsistency or irregularity in the meaning then judges take step accordingly.

The rule was applied in Sigsworth, Re, Bedford v Bedford .In this case court decide that the matter by applying this rule. This principle was applied on the section 46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925. That particular Act wanted that the law court must apply the rule for someone’s power of inheritance in certain situations. The decision took by the court in this regard was that nobody ought to make any earnings from any criminal activity. The court wants to analysis the word issue in the light of the golden rule. A boy killed his own mother and then he commits suicide. The court was interested about the decision regarding the matter of inheritance. There were no arguments regarding the profit make out of any crime.

The main objective of the mischief rule is to find the defect in the statute and remove it to implement it in a suitable manner. The court must implement the rule in that manner which can give the proper remedy.

In Conway v Rimmer case court apply the statutory interpretation rule to discover the intention of the legislative body.  In this application court raises some question that what are those hidden provisions which the law did not find or fail to cover. The law passed by the parliament now going to reviewed by the court. The Mischief Rule has much conservative submission than other two above mentioned rule. This rule applicable in that special circumstances where the court what to apply the statute to remove all the mischief. In this case the judges can took the help of the secondary sources also like parliamentary committee reports, law reviews etc to find out the intention of the legislature. This rule enhances the power of judges to decide he intention of the legislative body. In this case it can be seen that the parliamentary supremacy somehow not maintainable, the judges have more power to interpret the law to make it useable.

The main advantages of this rule are that in case of common law jurisdictions like UK the presence of binding precedent principle has its effect on the rule of interpretation which helps to prevent misuse of the laws. Different law commissions of England also find it more useful that other rule of interpretation because it generally avoid ambiguous and vague results and more over its in conformity with parliamentary sovereignty.


Heydon's Case, the most important and landmark case. This mischief rule is also called as Heydon rule for this issue. It was the first case where the mischief rule was applied for the interpretation of statute. For this reason this case has its own flavor and significance towards the rule. The mischief regulation is extra bendable in order to application from the Golden rule and Literal connotation rule. In this mischief rule adjudicators are the main authority to examine the draw backs to make the proper analysis regarding the gap in the area covered by any particular statute.  The ruling of this case was basically light upon the discussion and conflicts between the existing laws and pre existing common law. The judges of this case decide the matter and state that the object of a law was to remove the trouble occurring from the defect present in the common law. For that reason the court state that capacity of the statutes are inadequate so judges are required to interpret the law in quest of the actual intention of the legislators, or intention for the benefit of the public at large.  In this case four questions are come into existence that what was the existing law before the said Act come into force? What was the proper or actual trouble and imperfection which the common law failed to cover and also discussed about the solution which parliament used to cure that problem and finally what was the real cause for that remedy. This case shows that though parliament is the highest authority in rule making but the judges also have the power to interpret it so that the defects in the law can be removes and the law can cover all the trouble occurred for that defect in statute.

Principle of Binding precedent:

In the systems of common law precedent has a greater value. Precedent generally means and includes that the decision of the higher court will be applicable to lower courts also. In general terms it can be said that in the same cause of action or in same related law if the higher court have any decision then it will be binding on the lower court also. Common law legal systems precedent has a greater value.

Judges of the law courts are bound to follow the principle of binding precedent in the jurisdiction of England. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the legal system in England. In the legal system of England the judiciary are not enjoys the right to construct their conclusion in relation to any progress or explanation of a statute. Lower courts may be obliged by a verdict decided in any preceding case. There are two crucial points in this regard. Firstly, the court must be in higher authority than the other court which is bound to maintain the precedent. Along with this the facts, scope, object or application of law of both the cases must be similar in nature between the two cases.

Overlapping areas:

If we consider the fact of constitution it is obvious that the judges are in subordinate position than the parliament. So judges are not in a position to challenge the validity of any of the decided laws enacted by the parliament. But the judges have the power to interpret the law in such a manner which will give effect to the he actual Act. Though there was a doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty but by interpreting the laws somehow they entered into the era of the legislature. In different cases as sighted above was shown that judges of different law courts apply their mind to cure the defect in the in the legislation and this power is amounts to trespassing to the power of the parliament itself. On the other hand the judges of the law court trespass to the authority of the executive also. The government means the executive enjoys the power of delegated legislation. But those delegated legislations are subject to judicial review. So in this case we easily understood that judiciary somehow restricts the power of executive also. In many cases if nay inconsistency occurs by any action of the executive the court will try the matter and pronounce the verdict. In case of the application of the principle of “Sub Judice” it was obvious that the parliament will not be able to discuss any matter in their session if that matter is pending on the court of law. In Jackson case the court determine the issue that there was always a restriction over the parliamentary supremacy if it involves any question of public good. Then the law court has the supreme authority interpret the case for the benefit of the public at large.



By discussing the most prominent principle in UK that is the principle of binding precedent and the rule of statutory interpretation, it can be concluded that judges of UK to some extent encroaches in the domain of legislative and executive. The rights and duties are determined in the court of law. The legislations are effective to ensure those rights and duties but the court has the ultimate power to implement and utilize the meaning of the law as to the demand of the case. Executive cannot enjoy the arbitrary powers because their actions are also under the provisions of judicial review. In present era he law courts enjoys more power in interpreting the law and for the presence of the principle of binding precedent other courts also maintain that standard of interpretation. So the judiciary to some extent enters into the areas of the legislative and executive.

I submitted the draft of this assignment. That draft was not up to the standard. It has problems in English like formation of sentence or grammatical errors. Now for this time I really work hard to meet the required standard. I read different articles and books from the library which are essential for this matter. My approach was not proper regarding the main issue. So I consult with my teacher and read different cases and books of jurisprudence and interpretation of statute. I am not citing all the resources in proper manner. Now for this time I learn the OSCOLA style of foot noting and implement it in proper way for referencing.


Black H and Nolan J, Black's Law Dictionary (West Pub Co 1990)

Elliott C and Quinn F, English Legal System (Longman 2000)

Endlich G, A Commentary On The Interpretations Of Statutes (Lawbook Exchange 2005)

Katzmann R, Judging Statutes (Oxford University Press 2014)

Leyland P, The Constitution Of The United Kingdom (Hart Publishing 2007)

Lloyd of Hampstead D and Freeman M, Lloyd's Introduction To Jurisprudence (Stevens 1985)

Ratnapala S, Jurisprudence (Cambridge University Press 2009)

Riddall J, Jurisprudence (Butterworths 1991)

Solan L, The Language Of Statutes (University of Chicago Press 2010)

Becke v Smith (1836) 2 M&W

Conway v Rimmer [1968] UKHL

Grey v Pearson (1857) 10 ER

Heydon's Case (1584) 76 ER

Pepper v Hart (1992) 3 WLR

R (Jackson) v Attorney General [2005] UKHL

Sigsworth, Re, Bedford v Bedford (1935) 2 M&W

Sussex Peerage Case (1844) 11 Cl&Fin

Whiteley v Chappel (1868) LR 4 QB


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