Ejusdem Generis and Noscere Social Interpretation of Statues

Ejusdem Generis

This expression specifies that all the general word contains in the statute may be interpreted with references to the predecessor matter and the interpretation may be narrowed down by treating them as applying to the things of the same kind of items as the specific words.

The literal meaning of the term Ejusdem generic is ‘’of the same kind or species’’.The rule requires that where specific words are all of one genius, the meaning of the general words shall be restricted to that genus only unless there is something to show that a wider meaning was intended. For example, if a man tells the wife to go to the market to buy vegetables, fruits, groceries and anything else she needs, the ‘anything else’ would be taken to mean food and grocery items due to the role of Ejusdem generic and not cosmetics or other feminine accessories.

This rule has its application when the following  conditions are satisfied:

  1. The statute contains an enumeration of specific words;
  2. The members of enumeration constitute a class or category;
  3. The class is not exhausted by the enumeration
  4. The general term follows the enumeration; and
  5. There is no indication of different legislative intent.

Noscere Social

Noscere means to ‘know and social means ‘association’. Thus, Noscitur a Sociis means knowing from the association. Thus under the doctrine of ‘’noscitur a sociis’ the questionable meaning of a word or doubtful words can be derived from its association with other words within the context of the phrase. This means that where two or more words which are susceptible to analogous meaning are coupled together and they are understood to be used in their cognate sense. They take, as it were, their color from each other, the meaning of the general being restricted to a sense analogous to that of the less general.

This doctrine is broader than the doctrine of Ejusdem generic because this rule puts the words in the context of the whole phrase and not just in relation to the nearby words.

In the state of Assam Versus R Muhammad, Supreme Court made use of this rule to arrive at the meaning of the word ‘’posting’’ used in article 233 (1)of the constitution. It held that since the word ‘’posting’ occurs in association with the words ‘’appointment’’ and ‘’promotion’’, it took its color from them and so it means the assignment of an appointee or promote to a position’’ and does not mean the transfer of a person from one station to another.

Apart from these expressions, there are certain words such as notwithstanding, subject to, etc, whose presence in the statue requires specific interpretation. The word notwithstanding anything contained characterizes the non-obstante clause. The inclusion of this word means, the specific clause has an overriding effect over the other clauses and in case conflict between the non-obstante clause and another provision, it is the obstinate clause which will prevail.

On the other word, the word subject to characterize the opposite of a non-obstante clause. This word conveys the idea of a provision yielding place to another provision or provisions to which it is made subject to.

The use of or in a statute means disjunctive and use of and is normally conjunctive and a departure from the same is not available unless the very aim and purpose of the statute so require.

Apart from these words, it is very in, important to know about the nature of the statute or provision. This aspect is easy to understand when we know the provision stated or statue enacted is a mandatory or directory enactment. As such, no general rule can be laid down to reach the conclusion, in each case lies upon the actual word used and also upon the intention of the legislatures for enactment. In the same context, use of words such as ‘may’ ‘shall’ and must play an important part.