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Ejusdem Generis: A Legal View With Respect To India And USA

Legal Maxims
  • Ejusdem Generis
  • Origin
  • Latin
  • Bare Meaning

Ejusdem Generis (ee-joose-dem gen-ris) is a Latin phrase that means "of the same kind." The statutory and constitutional construction principle of "Ejusdem Generis" states that where general words or phrases follow a number of specific words or phrases, the general words are specifically construed as limited and apply only to persons or things of the same kind or class as those expressly mentioned.

For example: If a law refers to automobiles, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, and other motor-powered vehicles, a court can use Ejusdem Generis to hold that such vehicles would not include airplanes, because the list included only land-based transportation.

Ejusdem Generis literally means "of the same kind or species".

The Ejusdem Generis rule is that, where there are general words following particular and specific words, the general words following particular and specific words must be confined to things of the same kind as those specified, unless there is a clear manifestation of a contrary purpose.

It is merely a rule of construction to aid the Courts to find out the true intention of the Legislature.

According to the Black's Law Dictionary (8th edition, 2004.), "the principle of Ejusdem Generis is where general words follow an enumeration of persons or things by particular and specific words. Not only are these general words construed but also held as applying only to persons or things of the same general kind as those specifically enumerated."

Meaning Applied
To invoke the application of the Ejusdem Generis rule there must be a distinct genus or category. The specific words must apply not too different objects of a widely differing character but to something which can be called a class or kind of objects."

the application of the doctrine of Ejusdem Generis, there has to be an enumeration of specific words and those words should necessarily be of a class or a genus and there such genus or class should not be exhausted. Also, such specific words must be followed by the general words. And most importantly there was no contrary intention of the legislation. That means that the intention of the legislation was there to restrict the general words by the doctrine of Ejusdem Generis.

Ejusdem Generis, which is one of the canons of the interpretation, is used by the Judges so as to clear the ambiguity in the provisions of a statute and further make it clear by knowing the intention of the legislature and thus properly fulfilling the purpose of the legislation.

Here by applying the rule of Ejusdem Generis and removing the ambiguity by examining what the legislation intends, justice is served by the Courts and thus, the purpose of the legislation is fulfilled.
  • For the application of this doctrine the general words must follow the specific words and the specific words must necessarily constitute a genus/class
  • There must be an intention of the statute for restricting the general word to the genus/class of the specified words it follows.
  • Unless the context requires, the natural meaning should be given to the general words normally.
  • As this doctrine has to be used very cautiously by the Courts but sometimes the Courts may not use this doctrine properly and apply it where it is not necessary thus defeating the purpose of the statute and causing a miscarriage to Justice.

Position in Law
  • India
    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 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 no other person can embrace in their 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 the same nature as those specified.
  • Other Countries
    Ejusdem Generis is an interpretive guide for a contract under New York law. The rule is used only to help determine whether there is intent; if intent is found, Ejusdem Generis does not subvert intent.

    Ejusdem Generis Rule closely linked with the contextual approach to the interpretation of words. where particular words are followed by general words, the general words are interpreted restrictively to have a meaning that is of the same kind or genus as the preceding ones already particularized. see the case of Nasr V. Bowan.

    In this rule, where particular words which refer to members of a class are followed by general words, it is assumed that the general words are limited to members of that same class as specified by the particular words. In other words, where particular words are followed by general words, the general words are interpreted restrictively to have a meaning that is of the same kind or genus as the preceding ones already particularized. See the case of Ogele V. Omoleye (2006) All FWLR (pt.296) 809 H.C.

Case Laws
Cases where doctrine of Ejusdem Generis was applied:
  1. Siddheshwari Cotton Mills (P) Ltd v. UOI, 1989 Supreme Court
    In this case, the Supreme Court applied the rule of Ejusdem Generis while interpreting the general words 'any other process' under section 2(f) of the Central Excise & Salt Act, 1944 read with Notification Number 230 and 231 dated 15-07-1977.

    This general word followed the specific words which were "bleaching, mercerizing, dyeing, printing, water-proofing, rubberizing, shrink-proofing, organic processing". The Court here by applying the doctrine of Ejusdem Generis held that "the specific words form a class of process which is importing a change which is of lasting nature. And therefore 'any other word' must share one or any other of that process/incident".
  2. Kerala Cooperative Consumers' Federation Ltd v. CIT, (1988) 170 ITR 455 (Ker).
    The Court in this case interpreted the meaning of the phrase "'Body of Individuals", which was provided in section 2(31) of the Income Tax Act. The phrase was alongside Association of Persons.

    The Court, by applying the doctrine of Ejusdem Generis held that "Body of Individuals" will have to be understood with the same context, meaning and background which are provided to the words "Association of Persons". In this decision, the court was required to interpret the meaning of the phrase 'Body of Individuals'.

    It has said that in construing the words 'Body of Individuals' occurring in section 2(31) of the Income Tax Act along-side the words 'Association of Persons', the words 'Body of Individuals' would have to be understood in the same background, context and meaning given to the words "Association of Persons'.
  3. Maharashtra University of Health and others Vs Satchikitsa Prasarak Mandal & Others, 2010 Supreme Court
    "Soccis" is a Latin word, which means "society". "Noscitur a sociis" is a Latin maxim which means that "the term in a statute is to be recognized by the associated words". The doctrine of Ejusdem Generis is a facet of Noscitur a sociis.

    "Therefore, when general words are juxtaposed with specific words, general words cannot be read in isolation. Their color and their contents are to be derived from their context." The same observation was made by the Court in the case of Viscount Simonds in Attorney General v. Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover, (1957) AC 436 at 461 of the report.
  4. In the case of Lilawati Bai v. Bombay State, 1957 Supreme Court,
    The Court observed that:
    "Where the context and the object and mischief of the enactment do not require restricted meaning to be attached to words of general import, the Court must give those words their plain and ordinary meaning."

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