Bilika Simamba, ‘The Plain Meaning Rule: A Quibble about Nomenclature and a Lot More’

ABSTRACT
In the Cayman Islands, a British Overseas Territory, the proper understanding of the plain meaning rule (or literal rule) of statutory interpretation remains unclear. In its most basic iteration, the rule states that, where a statute is clear and unambiguous, the words must be given their natural and ordinary signification; there is no room for interpretation. That notwithstanding, to this day, even the meaning of the rule, as opposed to its application, still sometimes sparks debate in the Commonwealth. In 2015, a judge of the Grand Court in Cayman held that once a provision in a statute is clear and unambiguous, a court does not need to read the provision in its broader context. In a subsequent case, in 2018, a court of coordinate jurisdiction disagreed. It ruled that, even where a provision appears to be clear and unambiguous, a court must still read the statute in its fuller context in order to decipher the legal meaning in that particular context. This article discusses the plain meaning rule with a view to elucidating its proper understanding while questioning the appropriateness of its continuing nomenclature especially in light of developments in recent decades.

Bilika H Simamba, The Plain Meaning Rule: A Quibble about Nomenclature and a Lot More, Statute Law Review, https://doi.org/10.1093/slr/hmab021. Published: 20 September 2021.

First posted 2021-09-24 12:00:33

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