Ejusdem Generis

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This article was written by Shambhavi Suyesha, a student of KIIT School of Law.


This case is about  the doctrine of “Ejusdem Generis” which in Latin means ‘of the same kind’[1]. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, it signifies, “where general words follow an enumeration of people or things, by expressions of a specific and particular significance, such broad words are not to be translated in their most stretched out degree, but rather are to be held as applying just to people or things of the same general kind or class as those particularly said. It is a group of statutory development, where general words take after the identification of specific classes of things, the general words will be interpreted as applying just to things of the same general class as those counted.” Salmond has stated that this, Ejusdem Generis rule which serves to restrict the meaning of general words to things or matters of the same kind (genus) as the preceding particular words[2].For instance: if a law refers to cars, trucks, tractors, bikes and other motor-powered  vehicles, “vehicles” would exclude planes, since the list was of land based transportation. The Supreme Court in Amar Chandra v. Collector of Excise[3], has laid down the following five essential elements of this rule: the statute contains an enumeration of specific words; the subjects of enumeration constitute a class or category; that class or category is not exhausted by the enumeration; the general terms follow the enumeration; and there is no indication of a different legislative intent[4]. The rule requires that the particular words are all of one genus, in which case, the general words might be presumed to be restricted to that genus[5].

The Madras High Court in one of its latest judgement, Printing and General Workers Union Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Anr[6]. has applied the Doctrine of Ejusdem Generis during interpretation.


A Writ Petition was filed by the President of Printing and General Workers Union to issue writ of Mandamus against The National Small Industries Corporation. Ltd., hereinafter second respondent to implement the notification bearing No. S.O. 779(F),which was issued by Government on December 9, 1976 issued and to absorb and regularise the services of the contract workmen employed as security and watch and ward whose names are appended with the writ petition[7].This claim was based on the notification issued on December 9, 1976  by the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 and by the said notification the Central Government enjoying its power under sub-section(1) of section 10 of the same Act issued directions that for prohibition of the employment of contract labour on and from the first of March,1977 for sweeping, cleaning, dusting and watching of buildings owned or occupied by establishment in respect of which the appropriate Government under the said Act is the Central Government and the notification further read that it shall not apply to the outside cleaning and other maintenance operations of multi-storeyed building where such cleaning or maintenance operations cannot be carried out except with specialised experience[8]. The petitioner union claims that twenty workmen whose names are given in the annexure to the writ petition are their individuals and are utilized as contract workmen in the second respondent a Government of India undertaking having its centre at Guindy Industrial Estate, that the said representatives are taking every necessary step of watch and ward, that the work of security also, watch and ward has been depended by the second respondent to the private contractual worker in particular, Thai Security which is not enlisted under the arrangements of Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, that the said labourers who are doing security and watch furthermore, ward work are individuals from the petitioner union and thusly the solicitors are embracing their cause, that however the temporary worker is charging exceptionally gigantic sum from the second respondent the labourers are paid just a small sum other than being denied week by week leave or instalment in lieu of week by week off, leave on National and Festival Holidays, that as ahead of schedule as 1976, the Government of India issued a warning, dated December 9, 1976, under Section 10 of the same Act, restricting vocation of agreement work for security and watch and ward benefit, that disregarding the said warning the second respondent keeps on utilizing contract workmen to do security and watch and ward work and that the same is done to exploit cheap labour which is only unreasonable trade labour practice. Henceforth the writ petition is filled with prayer[9]. In its counter affidavit the second respondent denied with the fact that petitioner union represented his workmen. It further put contention that the writ petition filed by the union is not maintainable. It is further affirmed that irrespective of whatever case the workmen  may have in law against the respondent are all total strangers to the it and as the petitioner union can’t keep up the writ petition  asserting to represent to the contract workmen employed in the second respondent and again as it is a company registered under the Companies Act and it is not an industry carried on by or under the authority of the Central Government and so under Section 2(a) of the Industrial Disputes Act, the appropriate Government for the second respondent is the State Government and hence the notification which forms the basis for petitioners claim does not apply to the second respondent also the engagement of the workers through the contract of the second respondent is in the category of security guards, security supervisor and security officer. They are engaged to monitor the entry and exit of men and material and vehicles and provide security to the personnel and properties, not for watching the building and so there is no scope of such notification and this writ petition. The second respondent therefore prayed for dismissal of the writ petition[10].In his support the petitioner referred to the case  India Statutory Corporation v. United Labour Union and Ors[11]and letter issued by Labour Enforcement Officer (Central), Chennai on November 1, 2000 and said that the Central Government is the appropriate Government[12].


The main issue on which this principle of “Ejusdem Generis” was applied by this Court is- ‘whether these security personnel would be equated with the person watching the building?’


The ambiguity in this is whether the words “watching the building” employed in the notification would rope in or comprehend within it.


The Latin expression “Ejusdem Generis” which signifies “of the same kind or nature” is a principle of construction, which means subsequently when general words in a statutory content are flanked by confined words, the significance of the general words are taken to be limited by suggestion with the importance of limited words. This is a principle which emerges “from the linguistic implication by which words having truly a wide importance (when taken in segregation/isolation) are dealt with as lessened in degree by the verbal connection.”


As seen from the notification, which is extracted above, it restricts employment of contract labour on and from March 1, 1977 for “sweeping, cleaning, dusting and watching the building”. The word : “watching the building” has employed in the notification with conjunction (and) of the words sweeping, cleaning, dusting which work requires no specific training. Provided that this is true, the work of “watching the building” additionally requires no specific training. This angle is made all the more clear by the proviso connected to the notification, which furnishes with no questionable terms that the notification should not have any significant bearing to try and to the outside cleaning and maintenance operation where such maintenance can’t be completed aside from with specific experience[13].The Madras High Court by applying the principles of  “Ejusdem Generis” understood the meaning of the word which is in ambiguity: “watching of the building” and came to the decision that it also requires no specific experience as that of taking every necessary step of cleaning and dusting, which are the words, “watching of building”. In the event that the wordings employed in sweeping, cleaning, dusting and watching of the building is comprehended by applying the principles of “Ejusdem Generis”, the security personnel employed by the second respondent can’t be restricted in which the word watching of building and in that capacity the notification can’t be made relevant to the people who are employed for the reasons and so the prayer sought for in the writ petition can’t be granted since the candidate is non-suited to the alleviation as looked for the reasons above said[14].


Therefore the writ petition was dismissed and the Mandamus writ petition was also dismissed on February 8, 2001.


The application the principle “Ejusdem Generis” has be done as such adroitly by this court and the interpretation of the uncertainty or ambiguity here is done so pleasantly, on the off chance that we consider expressions of  Salmond  and  go for the same sort of significance with impact of its point of precedent words of this ambiguous word here, “watching the building” we will come at conclusion that it is a work for which no particular training is required and should be possible so effectively with no specific past preparing. If  we go through the judgment of the case, Housing Board of Haryana v. Haryana Housing Board Employees’ Union and Ors.[15] the utilization of “Ejusdem Generis” for this present case will be  all  the more clear about the understanding of the judges which is done during interpretation and how this interpretation has been done in such a decent way, the judgement of  the above mentioned case read  as when ‘particular words pertaining to a class of genus are  followed by general words, the latter, namely, the general words are construed as limited to the things of the same kind as those specified, and this is known as the rule of “Ejusdem Generis” reflecting an attempt to reconcile incompatibility between the specified and general words’ and by relying on this judgement we can say that giving general meaning the this very ambiguous word is a good example of application of this rule or principle.

[1] PAPOO PARMAR, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES BASIC KNOWLEDGE, LLB Notes LLM Notes LLB Past Paperhttps://lawnotes.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/interpretation-of-statutes-basic-knowledge/ (last visited: 20.09.2016, 11:56pm)

[2]   RASTRA BIMOCHAN TIMALSENA, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE USING EJUSDEM GENERIS, National Law College, http://nalcnepal.com/index.php/component/k2/item/22-interpretation-of-statute-using-ejusdem-generis.html (last visited: 20.09.2016, 11:60 pm )

[3]  1972 AIR 1863, 1973 SCR (1) 533

[4] ASHVIN ACHARYA & ARPITA ACHARYA-MUKHERJEE, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES: THE DOCTRINE OR EJUSDEM GENERIS/ NOSCITUR A SOCIIS, http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.aiftponline.org/journal/December%25202014/direct_interpretation_of_statutes.html&num=1&strip=0&vwsrc=0 (last visited: 17.09.2016, 08:47 pm)

[5] supra.

[6] MANU/TN/0856/2001; 2001 (89) FLR 512;(2001) ILLJ 1578 Mad

[7] id.

[8] id.

[9] id.

[10] id.

[11] MANU/SC/0163/1997

[12] MANU/TN/0856/2001; 2001 (89) FLR 512;(2001) ILLJ 1578 Mad

[13] id

[14] id.

[15] (1996) 1 SCC 95

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