Deciphering the intention of parliament in statutes: The jurisprudence of judicial interpretation

  • John Edor Edor
  • Augustine Ekpo


The sacerdotal task of interpretation of statutes and laws is bequeathed to the judicial arm of government in every civil society. The exercise of interpretation is a very tedious one, as it involves, not merely the translation of words and language of another person or group of persons, but the act/art of attempting to decipher the intended message to be conveyed by that other person/group. The problems associated with hermeneutics are usually brought to fore in the exercise of judicial interpretation. Since the political society has so delineated functions leaving the function of interpretation of statutes and laws within the purview of the judicial arm of government, the courts are, therefore, saddled with the responsibility of putting into effect the, otherwise, dry bones of statutory provisions. In the case of statutory interpretation, this task of judicial interpretation implies deciphering the intention of parliamentfrom the statute books. As a matter of fact, deciphering one‟s own intentionin previously spoken or written words may prove difficult, how much more ascertaining the intention of parliament that is a completely different group of persons, with most/all members of the said parliament death. Because of the difficulties associated with deciphering the intention of parliament in statutory provisions, courts have fashioned out rules/principles of interpretation. Nonetheless, it is identified that extraneous considerations/factors such as public policy, economic realities, sociological considerations, educational background, etc. all play significant roles in ascertaining the so-called intention of parliament from statutory provisions. This being the case, what comes out as the intention of parliament through judicial interpretation of statutory provisions may, after all, be the intention of the judge, not of parliament.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1119-443X