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Application of the doctrine of Ejusdem generis to Section 364 IPC

Written by: Shelly - NLIU Student
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  • Ejusdem generis is a rule of construction. While interpretation or construction of a statute the first thing which is done by the court is to assign literal meaning to the statute in question, but in case, there exist an ambiguity or vagueness, then the courts go a step further in its interpretation, and try knowing the intent of the legislature in constructing of such a statute; which can be inferred and determined from the application of statutory rules of interpretation out of which one of them is ejusdem generis. Ejusdem generis means "of the same kind" and is more restricted than the word analogous. It is for application in the construction of statutes.

    In the instant article the doctrine has been comprehended by applying it to Section 364-A of the Indian Penal Code.

    The true scope of the rule of ejusdem generis is that words of a general nature following specific and particular words should be construed as limited to things, which are of the same nature as those specified. But the rule is one, which has to be applied with caution and not pushed too far (held in UPSE Board v. Hari Shankar Jain AIR 1979 SC 65). It is essential for the application of the rule that enumerated things before the general words must constitute a category or a genus or a family, which admits number of species and members. In S.S Magnhild (Owners) v. Macintyre BROS. & Co. [1920] 3 KB 321 the King's Bench held that: unless a category is found, there is no room for application of the ejusdem generis principle.

    In Amar Chandra v. Excise Collector, Tipura AIR [1972] SC 1836 Justice Dua was of the opinion that the rule strives to reconcile the incompatibility between specific and general words. This doctrine applies when:
    (i) where the statute contains an enumeration of specific words;
    (ii) the subjects of enumeration constitute a class or category;
    (iii) that class or category is not exhausted by the enumeration;
    (iv) the general term follows the enumeration, and;
    (v) there is no indication of a different legislative intent.

    Now approaching to Section 364-A of IPC which follows as:

    Kidnapping for ransom, etc. - Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person or keeps a person in detention after such kidnapping or abduction, and threatens to cause death or hurt to such person, or by his conduct gives rise to a reasonable apprehension that such person may be put to death or hurt or causes hurt or death to such person in order to compel the government or any foreign state or international inter-governmental organization or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act or to pay ransom, shall be punishable with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

    This section was introduced in 1993 and was amended in 1995 with a view to provide punishment for kidnapping, abduction or detention for ransom. This section provides for a very serious punishment against the offender. Now the question arises that what could be the reason behind providing of such a stringent penalty against the offender, where as in cases where kidnapping and abduction is done either with an intention to murder or disposing of as to be put in the danger of being murdered then the punishment granted is only life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment which may extend to ten years and an liability to pay fine (Referring to Section 364 of IPC).

    Prima facie the imposition of punishment under this section (Sec 364-A IPC) as compared to the other sections related to kidnapping may appear to be highly unreasonable and unjust.

    But determining the legislative intent and on application of the doctrine of ejusdem generis it could be inferred that the application of this section is to be made in highly particular and peculiar situations keeping in view the feat of the terrorists and other anti-social groups who kidnap or abduct in order to nag the government
    The rule of "ejusdem generis" has its head on application in section 364-A of IPC, because the words "any other person" as mentioned in the section should be interpreted only in light of its preceding words i.e. government, foreign on. This necessarily means that any other person cannot embrace in its ambit any private body or an individual. It has been held that where words of general nature follow specific and particular words they should be construed as limited to things, which are of same nature as those specified. When particular words pertaining to a class or category or genus are followed by general words, the general words are to be construed as limited to things of the same kind as specified (State of Karnataka v. Kempaiah AIR 1998 Bom 3047).

    The Privy counsel construed the words "any other person" as follows:
    "When a section of an Act of Parliament after enumerating several office-holders proceeds to add the words 'any other person or persons whatever,' the doctrine of 'ejusdem generis' applies. Any 'other person' means any one who holds an office in the Government of a similar kind to those enumerated. In the matter of Sir Stuart Sammuel."

    The Bombay High Court in Sundrabai Dalichand v. Moneshwar Mahadeo Gokhle, AIR 1959 Bom 178 has also interpreted 'any other person' specific to the words proceedings in particular statute (in that case CPC) as follows:
    "The expression "any other person" has reference to those other persons, who have been mentioned in the preceding rules of Order 5, who according to those rules, are entitled, to receive service on behalf of the parties to litigation."'

    The Punjab & Haryana High Court has held in Balwant Singh & Anr. v. State of Haryana 2002(2) RCR (Cri) 369 as under:
    "From the language of s 364-A IPC it becomes crystal clear that this section is applicable only when the kidnapping for ransom etc, is done in order to compel the government or any foreign state or international inter-governmental organization to do or abstain from doing any act. When an individual person has been compelled to pay the ransom amount, the offence under s 364-A IPC is not made out at all."

    Hence the rule is founded upon the idea that if the Legislature intended the general words to be used in an unrestricted sense, the particular classes would not have been mentioned (Referring to Crawford Statutory Construction, Article 191 at p. 327).

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