15 Dec 2022 3:37 AM GMT
Rejecting a review petition which challenged the court's interpretation of noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis principles in a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court has said they are intended to be exception to the applicability of an expression's normal etymological connotations in the statute. Justice C. Hari Shankar said the principle of noscitur a sociis stipulates that a word is to...
Rejecting a review petition which challenged the court's interpretation of noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis principles in a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court has said they are intended to be exception to the applicability of an expression's normal etymological connotations in the statute.
Justice C. Hari Shankar said the principle of noscitur a sociis stipulates that a word is to be understood in the light of the company it keeps and the principle of ejusdum generis requires a specific word, which is found in the company of other words which constitutes a genus, to be also interpreted as belonging to the same genus.
The court said both the principles are to be accorded precedence, if they apply, while interpreting the concerned word, over connotation.
"There is, therefore, a fundamental want of logic in the contention that the principle of noscitur a sociis applies only where the meaning of the word concerned is uncertain. Even where the meaning of the word concerned, etymologically, is certain and well understood, if the noscitur a sociis principle applies, the etymological meaning of the word has to cede place to its understanding as would emerge by application of the principle," said the court.
The observations where made in context of Order VI Rule 16 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the provision that allows a court to strike out or amend any matter in any pleading which may be "unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous, or vexatious; which may tend to prejudice, embarrass or delay the fair trial of the suit, or which otherwise an abuse of the process of the court."
Justice Shankar in the November 9 judgement had ruled that expression 'unnecessary' cannot be allowed its full etymological play and effect, as, in that event, the provision would empower a court to arrogate to itself the authority to decide whether something which is pleaded was 'necessary' or not.
Advocate Brijesh Gupta in the review petition argued that the court's application of the noscitur a sociis and ejusdem generis principles is incorrect in law. Gupta argued the noscitur a sociis doctrine would have application only where the meaning of the word is doubtful. He further submitted that the etymological meaning of the word 'unnecessary' does not leave room for any doubt, adding that "unnecessary" means 'not necessary'.
Observing that very basis of Gupta's contention is "fundamentally legally unsound", the court said the word 'unnecessary' is used in company of 'scandalous', 'frivolous' and 'vexatious' and as they refer to a particular kind of pleading, "the word 'unnecessary', understood noscitur a sociis, cannot be allowed its full play and effect and has to take colour from the words 'scandalous', 'frivolous' and 'vexatious'.
The court further said insofar as the application of the ejusdum generis principle is concerned, it is necessary to understand the distinction between the noscitur a sociis and ejusdum generis principles. The application of both these principles would result in understanding of an expression used in a statute in the light of the expressions in the company of which it is found, it added.
"The difference is that the ejusdum generis principle applies where the specific words accompanying a general word constitute a genus. If they constitute a genus, the word which is general would also have to be restricted to the genus which forms part of the accompanying words. If the accompanying words do not constitute a genus, then the noscitur a sociis principle would apply, and the general word would have to be understood in the light of the meaning of the words with which it is associated in the statute," said the court.
Justice Shankar said as words 'scandalous', 'frivolous' and 'vexatious' do constitute a particular genus of pleading, the principle of ejusdum generis would also apply.
Rejecting the argument that ejusdum generis principle applies only where the general word follows the specific word and not where the general word precedes the specific words, the court said it is correct that, in most cases where the ejusdum generis principle is applied, the general word follows the specific words.
"There is, however, no decision, to my knowledge, which holds that if the specific words follow the general word, the ejusdum generis principle would not apply," it added.
Observing that no case for review of the decision on that ground can be said to exist, the court dismissed the review petition.
Title: BRIJESH GUPTA vs SMT SAROJ GUPTA
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 1177
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment