The plain mean­ing rule in in­ter­pret­ing statutes

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

Dear Ed­i­tor, The United States Supreme Court, in King v. Bur­well, a re­cent case about what is com­monly called “Oba­macare,” in a de­ci­sion writ­ten by the Chief Jus­tice of that Court, Mr. John Roberts, in­voked the well-known Plain Mean­ing rule used in courts world­wide and said: “If the statu­tory lan­guage is plain, we must en­force it ac­cord­ing to its terms.” See King v. Bur­well, 135 S. Ct. 2480, 2489 (2015).

Guyana and the United States have courts with a com­mon English ori­gin. In both coun­tries, the Plain Mean­ing rule is ap­pli­ca­ble to in­ter­pret statutes.

Here, the rel­e­vant statute is Ar­ti­cle 106 (6) of the Con­sti­tu­tion of Guyana which clearly states: “The Cabi­net in­clud­ing the Pres­i­dent shall re­sign if the Gov­ern­ment is de­feated by the vote of a ma­jor­ity of all the elected mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly on a vote of con­fi­dence.”

The con­sti­tu­tion is silent as to the mean­ing of the word “ma­jor­ity.” The word is not am­bigu­ous. That is, it does not have two mean­ings. We ought to read it for its plain mean­ing. In­vok­ing the Plain Mean­ing rule in the case at hand, thir­tythree is a “ma­jor­ity” over thirty-two. Gov­ern­ment was de­feated.

Yours faith­fully, Rakesh Ram­pertab

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