Golden Rule of Interpretation

Topics: Statutory interpretation, Plain meaning rule, Golden rule Pages: 8 (3248 words) Published: October 30, 2012
Golden Rule Of Interpretation-Comparision Between English Law And Indian Law  

The golden rule is that the words of a statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning. It is yet another rule of construction that when the words of the statute are clear, plain and unambiguous, then the courts are bound to give effect to that meaning, irrespective of the consequences. It is said that the words themselves best declare the intention of the law-giver. In law, the Golden rule, or British rule, is a form of statutory construction traditionally applied by English courts. The golden rule allows a judge to depart from a word's normal meaning in order to avoid an absurd result. The term "golden rule" seems to have originated in an 1854 court ruling,[1] and implies a degree of enthusiasm for this particular rule of construction over alternative rules that has not been shared by all subsequent judges. For example, one judge made a point of including this note in a 1940 decision: "The golden rule is that the words of a statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning." Although it points to a kind of middle ground between the plain meaning (or literal) rule and the mischief rule, the golden rule is not, in a strict sense, a compromise between them. Like the plain meaning rule, the golden rule gives the words of a statute their plain, ordinary meaning. However, when this may lead to an irrational result that is unlikely to be the legislature's intention, the golden rule dictates that a judge can depart from this meaning. In the case of homographs, where a word can have more than one meaning, the judge can choose the preferred meaning; if the word only has one meaning, but applying this would lead to a bad decision, the judge can apply a completely different meaning. The main advantages of the golden rule of interpretation are a) Errors in drafting can be corrected immediately . b) Decisions are generally more in line with Parliament's intention c) Closes loopholes d) Often gives a more just result e) Brings common sense to the law . Though the disadvantages of this rule cannotbe ignored Judges are able to add or change the meaning of statutes and thereby become law makers infringing the separation of powers and Judges have no power to intervene for pure injustice where there is no absurdity . The Golden Rule is really an elaboration, extension or moderation of the literal rule. It states that words should be used in their literal meaning only to the extent that it those not produce an absurd or intolerable conclusion, or result. The rule can be applied in two ways. Firstly by the narrow meaning whereby if there is ambiguity in the words of the legislation, preference will be given to the meaning of the word, which does not result in absurdity. In Adler v George , the defendant had been charged under s.3 of the Official Secrets Act 1920, under which it is an offence to obstruct HM forces ‘in the vicinity of any prohibited place’. The defendant carried out the obstruction inside the area. The defendant was found guilty of the charge - the court did not limit itself to the literal wording of the Act. The second use is the wider or broad approach. It is used to avoid an outcome, which is absurd or obnoxious to principles of public policy even if the word(s) only have one meaning. In the case of Re Sigsworth . This was a case of murder and inheritance. Under s.46 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925, a person, could not inherit the estate of the decease if they had murdered that other person, otherwise the murderer would benefit from his/her crime.

The Golden rule was first set out in the case of Grey v Pearson , an old British case. The gist of this rule is that if the words are given their ordinary meaning, and it is clear that this meaning does not correspond with the clear intention of the legislature (as one can find in the whole of the...
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