Ejusdem Generis

Sai Manoj Reddy

The meaning of this maxim is ‘of the same kind’ this maxim is generally used by the courts in deciding or classification of entities or bodies which comes under a specific definition. One of the main applications of the ejusdem generis rule is in the interpretation of statutes. In India ejusdem generis is used often when ambiguity or confusion on the statutes arises. This maxim played a major role in defining the state and the origin of clear and proper definition of state and what are all the other authorities which is mentioned in the article 12 of the Indian constitution. In the case of university of madras v. shanthabai the court used the ejusdem generis rule to clarify whether the university comes under the term state or not?  The court by interpreting the article 12 of the Indian constitution said that as there are state legislature, parliament, and central government mentioned in the article 12, the court held that using the rule of ejusdem generis any authority which tends to come under the term other authorities in the article 12, then either it should be performing the funvtions similar to the functions of the legislature and government or sovereign functions only comes under the term other authorities as stated in the article 12 of the Indian constitution.

We can say that this is the origin from which the court started defining clearly the term other authorities to avoid the ambiguity and confusion on this topic. The case which was mentioned above is dated back in 1954 which is very near to the framing of constitution of India which says us that this legal maxim had a particular significance in the development of law related to fundamental rights in India as the fundamental rights are only actionable against the state and the authorities stated under the article 12 of the Indian constitution.

Now coming to the interpretation of statutes using the rule of ejusdem generis, a statute is generally interpreted as per the intent of legislature but once legislature passes the statute, its interpretation lies in the hand of the judges/courts. There might be some cases where the statute might not be clear and judges might need to interpret the statute as per their need. So, in order to make sure that there is no arbitrariness in the interpretation, many canons of statutory interpretation has been brought forward so as to guide the judges towards the right interpretation. Ejusdem generis is one of those canons of statutory interpretation which is used when a statute contains certain specific words which is followed by a general term. The researcher will be looking into this canon of statutory interpretation in this research paper.This rule of ejusdem generis is not a new rule of construction. It is an ancient doctrine, which was called Lord Tenterden’s Rule. It was used in Archbishop of Canterbury’s Case in 1596, where the Judge laid down this rule of construction. Now, we’ve to realize that every case where the dispute relates to specific genus of words followed by general word does not attract this rule of interpretation. There are certain elements that need to be fulfilled before the judges/courts can use this method of interpretation. There are various conditions ranging for requirement of specific words to legislative intent and these conditions have been properly mentioned in the case of Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board v. HarishankerHere, the Supreme Court has laid down five different conditions that needs to be fulfilled this rule of construction is used. They are:

  1. The statute contains an enumeration of specific words.
  2. The subjects of enumeration constitute a class or category.
  3. That class or category is not exhausted by the enumeration.
  4. The general terms follow the enumeration.

There is no indication of a different legislative intent.

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