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Introduction to Statutory Interpretation

The essay talks about the statutory interpretation concerning the Bushfire Prevention and Management Act 2019 (Cth). In the case of Robyn and Johnnie section, 6 talks about the ignition of the bushfire, and section 7 depicts the destruction of wildlife and their habitat. In general, enactment utilizes words and they should be deciphered to give them meaning. Interpretation is a procedure by which courts decide the importance of a legal endowment to apply it to the circumstance before them. Attorneys also need to decipher enactments while insisting on their customers. Rules of interpretation of statutes are basic rules of rationale or reasonable perspectives which the court will normally follow yet is not obliged to follow. The adjudicators have a genuinely wide decision in concluding how to apply the rules of interpretation to the current circumstance. In any case, this decision cannot be connected with arbitrariness. Thus, this paper will be highlighting the issue concerning the wildland fires.

Rules of Statutory Interpretation

There are, basically, two conflicting opinions concerning how judges ought to approach deciding the significance of a statute the restrictive, literal approach and the more liberal, purposive approach, which is reflected in the mischief rule[1].

  • The literal approach

The literal approach is predominant in Lesotho's legitimate framework. Within the framework of the literal approach there are two particular principles[2]:

  • The literal rule

The primary obligation of an appointed authority is to decipher a statute as per the conventional, accurate, and linguistic importance of the words which the governing body has utilized. This is so even though it creates an unfair or undesirable outcome, which might be in opposition to what the Parliament planned. The application of the literal rule is shown in the case of Fisher v Bell (1960)[3].

The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 made it an offense to offer for purchase firm violent weapons including flick blades. The defendant had a flick blade displayed in his workshop window with a sticker price on it. In the law of contract, putting something in a shop window is just a solicitation to others to make offers[4]. The client who proposes the shop when he tenders cash for a thing discounted. As per the literal significance of offer, the entrepreneur had not proposed to sell as was not blameworthy of the offense. Likewise, the respondent was not found guilty because he had not offered the blades accessible to pay for. Parliament in this manner overruled this decision by amending the law to elucidate that displaying a flick blade in a shop window was an offense. In this case, it is the prime duty of the judge to interpret the law with its literal meaning. The event Sausage Sizzle was organized with a good intent to curb the Bitou Bush to lower the expansion of Australian Cheesewood. The bush caught fire due to an accident which does not make liable Robyn to compensate and suffer detention.

  • The golden rule

In this case, the Bitou Bush was burnt due to the accidental fire which helped the Cuttagee Coast care Group in deducing their efforts to clear the vast area of land covered with Bitou Bush. If applying literal rule prompts some irrationality or some repugnancy or irregularity with the remains of the statute, the golden rule allows an adjudicator to alter the literal interpretation to stay away from such an outcome. As an example, the Official Secrets Act 1920 made it an offense for any individual to be ‘in the region of' an army base’. An unapproved individual was found inside the army base. The court held that he was guilty of the offense. It would have been irrational to hold an individual liable if he was in the region however not if he was inside the army installation[5]. It ought to be underlined that the court is not at freedom to overlook, or supersede, legislative provisions basically on the source that it deliberates them as irrational. Golden rule is applied if there is some vagueness in the words utilized in the statute so that out of the two ostensibly conflicting implications, that interpretation is favored which does not prompt irrationality[6].

For example, assume a statute makes it an offense to be in ownership of specific substances. Interpreted literally, it would imply that even the police officer who claimed such substances from a wrongdoer would be guilty of the offense. That would be an irrational outcome. The court, consequently, may utilize golden rule to decipher 'ownership' to signify 'unlawful belonging' or 'ownership without legitimate position'. Hence, Robyn and Johnnie are not held liable for any damages as the fire broke out accidentally[7].

  • The mischief rule

The purposive approach is distinctive in civil law frameworks. In these jurisdictions, enactment inclines to set out general standards and leaves the fine facts to be filled in later by the adjudicators, who are probable to make pronouncements in the persistence of those general standards. Judges, where essential, can look afar the words of a statute to discover the explanation and reason for its order. The significance of the words in a statute is interpreted in the light of that reason. This contradicts the literal approach. Lesotho courts, similar to the British courts, do not follow the purposive methodology as the methods of drafting enactment in Lesotho is like Britain. Rather, they keep mischief rule which is an antecedent of the purposive methodology[8]. Mischief rule, similar to the purposive methodology, allows the court to go behind the definite wording of a statute to consider the issue that the statute is supposed to remedy. Yet, in its application, it is constrained by being confined to utilizing past precedent-based law rules to resolve the function of contemporary enactment.

Hence in the Heydon's case (1584), it was expressed that to apply this rule a court needs to consider what was the law before the statute was passed, what mischief or imperfection the statute planned to remedy and the purpose behind such remedy[9]. Thus the other way to aspect at the above case where the statute made it an offense for anybody to be in the region of an army installation is to consider the mischief the Act was intended to preclude. That mischief for which Parliament gave a remedy was to keep unapproved people from being in the vicinity of the army installation as it was biased to national security interests. Consequently by applying mischief rule not only the unapproved people close to the establishment as well as those initiate inside would be as liable of an offense under the Act[10].

(a) It is equipped to go into gratuitous requirements in Lesotho as the English doctrine of consideration does not apply in Lesotho. Lesotho observes Roman-Dutch customary law. So, if John guarantees Sandy an additional R 2,000 if he completes the making of the house on schedule, the guarantee might be requisite and enforceable at law[11]. So if Sandy completes the development on schedule, John might be lawfully obliged to pay him an additional R 2,000. In Conradie v Rossouw (1919), it was held by Wessels AJA that a good cause of action can be established on a guarantee made genuinely and intentionally and with the goal that a legitimate commitment ought to be set up and that there is no requirement for consideration to be available in an enforceable guarantee. Later then, since there is Justa causa for the guarantee it will be obligatory[12]. It is determinedly recognized that Justa causa is not a similar thing as consideration. Causa implies the ground or explanation for the contract, that which achieved it, and the notion behind Justa is that this ground or reason must not be illicit or unethical or inconceivable nor must the contract be made playfully. So, the idea of consensus is the ground of contractual liability in Lesotho[13].

(b) An offer is ended by dismissal. Any endeavor to acknowledge a proposal on terms not contained in the original offer adds up to a counter-offer and a dismissal of the offer. An offeree who makes such an endeavor cannot later acknowledge the original offer. Hence, when an individual makes a counter-offer at a lesser buy cost or expenses in portions, he would dismiss the first offer. Though the merchant may acknowledge the counter-offer and then a contract will result. In this manner, anyone creating a counter-offer faces a challenge that if it is not acknowledged by the offeror, he will not be able to restore the first offer. If he does not wish to face that challenge, he should not make a counter-offer. Though, an offer is not dismissed only by inquisitive from the offeror whether he would be willing to fluctuate his terms[14].

In Stevenson, Jacques, and Co v McLean (1880), the defendant offered to vend iron to the plaintiffs, who asked whether they may take conveyance of the iron over four months. The defendant considered it as a counter-offer and offered the iron to another party. It was held that the plaintiff's request was 'implied as an inquiry', as a solicitation for more data and, in this manner, was not a counter-offer[15]. The differentiation between a counter-offer and a solicitation for data is a fine one and eventually, it is for the courts to decide tangibly if the offeree proposed to ask or counter-offer. One must be extremely cautious when looking for data, for example, if the offeror would acknowledge a lesser sum or expenses in portions. One needs to utilize words that makes the purpose exceptionally evident that a counter-offer is not being made, only explanations or additional data about the offer is being looked for. For example, Tom may tell the vender, 'I am keen on your offer and I am thinking about it. Meanwhile, I would acknowledge whether you could please explain if the cost is debatable or payable in two portions?' Likely, the court may not see that as a counter-offer.

Robyn and Johnnie – The Rule of Statutory Interpretation

In the case of Robyn and Johnnie, when it comes to the civil right, then both the friends are liable for the loss suffered by the resident. As it is the general rule that it is not necessarily everything is beneficial is everyone. Due to the negligent act of the Robyn, the resident has suffered the huge loss at his vegetable garden as the bush who got burnt in fire gave the winds which permitted the salt-laden winds from the close coast has burnt up her whole lettuce cultivation. So, both the friends would be liable for the imprisonment as well as the compensation[16]. Section 6 of the Bushfire Prevention and Management Act 2019 depicts that any individual who sources ignition outside the building or manmade structure without getting permission from the Commission would be held guilty of the offense which provides 2 years imprisonment with compensation ranging to $200,000. Section 7 states that any person who is held liable for killing, injuring or disturbing the wildlife or animal habitat during the duration of the bush ignition shall be held responsible for 2 years of imprisonment or a compensation ranging up to $500,000.

Conclusion on Statutory Interpretation

In conclusion, the statutory interpretation is governed by the three rules i.e. literal rule, the golden rule, and the mischief rule. The literal rule deals with the actual meaning of the act or the statute. The golden rule deals with any mistake or misunderstanding of the interpretation done by the judges. It allows the judges to modify the extent of the interpretation. The mischief rule is truly based on the civil laws and allows the judges to make decisions as per the law. In the case of Robyn and Johnnie concerning the rules of statutory interpretation, they both are held guilty for the bushfire ignition as their negligent act caused harm to the civilian and the event was conducted without the permission of the respective committee related to the bushfire.

References for Statutory Interpretation

Choi, J. H. (2020). An Empirical Study of Statutory Interpretation in Tax Law. NYUL Rev.95, 363.

Davis, M. (2016). Statutory Interpretation in Missouri. Mo. L. Rev.81, 1127.

Dharmananda, J. (2019). Drafting Statutes and Statutory Interpretation: Express or Assumed Rules. Monash UL Rev.45, 401.

Easterbrook, F. H. (2017). The Absence of Method in Statutory Interpretation. The University of Chicago Law Review, 81-97.

Gluck, A. R. (2016). Justice Scalia's Unfinished Business in Statutory Interpretation: Where Textualism's Formalism Gave Up. Notre Dame L. Rev.92, 2053.

Ijaiya, H. (2018). The Jurisprudential Approach to Statutory Interpretation. KIU Journal of Humanities2(2 (A)), 271-274.

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