Interpretation of Laws in Ghana Cheat Sheet

Purpose of Legal Interpretation

Interpretation helps to clarify the meanings of statutes, their scope, and application, ensuring laws are applied consistently.

Principles of Interpretation

The primary principles include the literal rule, the golden rule, and the mischief rule, each applied differently depending on the context.

Interpretative Aids

Intrinsic aids (within the legislation) and extrinsic aids (external sources) assist in interpreting the law.

The Role of Precedent

Past decisions or precedents guide the interpretation of similar cases, maintaining consistency in legal application.


The literal rule focuses on the plain, ordinary meaning of the words in a statute.


It is applied when the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, without resorting to other interpretive methods.


Promotes legal certainty and upholds the sovereignty of the Parliament.


May lead to unjust or absurd results if the literal meaning is too strict.


The golden rule allows for modification of the literal meaning to avoid absurd results.


Used when literal interpretation leads to an outcome that is not intended by the legislature.


The application is limited to those cases where literal interpretation fails to impart sensible meaning.

Case Law

Notable cases where the golden rule has been applied can be incorporated to illustrate its application.


Focuses on the law's intent and the 'mischief' the Parliament intended to remedy through legislation.


Considers what the law was before the statute and how the statute aims to change it.


Allows more flexibility and can provide fair and just outcomes.


Potentially grants judges more discretion, which might lead to inconsistently applied laws.

Grammatical Tools

Grammar and punctuation can greatly affect the interpretation of legislative texts.

Systematic Interpretation

Interrelationship between statutes and within sections of a statute inform the interpretation.

Teleological Interpretation

Focusing on the purpose and spirit of the law, beyond just the literal words.

External Aids to Interpretation

Includes law dictionaries, previous laws, international conventions, travaux préparatoires, etc.

This `cheatsheet` provides a basic framework highlighting critical aspects of the `Interpretation of Laws in Ghana`, which is a foundational area of study in the Ghana School of Law. You can expand each section further with more specific details or case law references particular to the Ghanaian legal system.

Plain Meaning Rule

When the language in the document is clear and unambiguous, the words are given their ordinary and simple meaning.

Contextual Approach

The context in which a document is created can influence interpretation, including the purpose and circumstances surrounding its creation.

Intention of the Parties

Seek to understand the intention of the parties involved at the time they entered into the document.


Interpret the clauses in a non-statutory document in a manner that is reasonable and consistent with the document's purpose.

Statutory Document Interpretation

Understanding the scope, meaning, and application of legislative texts.

Historical Context

Legislation's origin and background information for better understanding.

Creation Timeline

The chronology of how and when the statute was enacted.

Legislative History

Debates, reports, and documents that influenced the law's formation.

Cultural/Social Influence

The effect of societal norms and culture during enactment.

Language & Definitions

The specifics of legal language and terminology used.

Plain Meaning Rule

Interpreting words as they are commonly understood.

Legal Definitions

Special meanings of terms as defined within the statute.

Contextual Clarity

Using the larger text to make sense of specific parts.

Purpose & Intent

Determining why the statute was created.

Stated Objectives

Goals and aims explicitly provided in the document.

Legislative Intent

The intended effect lawmakers wanted to achieve.

Beneficial Construction

Interpretation that advances the purpose of the statute.

Rules of Interpretation

Established methods for deciphering legislative texts.

Literal Rule

Taking the words in their usual sense without adding meaning.

Golden Rule

Modifying literal meaning to avoid absurd results.

Mischief Rule

Focusing on the issue law aims to address.

Judicial Precedents

The impact of court decisions on interpretation.

Binding Authority

Previous rulings from higher courts that must be followed.

Persuasive Authority

Decisions from other or lower courts that can influence.

Distinguishing Cases

Understanding differences to determine applicability.

Amendments & Revisions

Changes or updates made to the statutory document.

Official Amendments

Government sanctioned alterations to the legislation.

Interpretative Changes

Shifts in understanding due to evolving legal standards.

Retrospective Application

Deciding if amendments affect past, present, or future situations.

Contra Proferentem

Any ambiguity is construed against the party that drafted the document, especially in contracts of adhesion.

Ejusdem Generis (of the same kind)

Where general words follow a list of specifics, the general words are interpreted to include things of the same kind as the specifics.

Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius

The mention of one thing implies the exclusion of another, when typically both would be mentioned together.

Noscitur a Sociis

A word is known by the company it keeps; the meaning of a word may be influenced by the words surrounding it.

Consultation of External Materials

Look at external materials such as drafts, correspondence, and other related documents for clarification.

Precedential Interpretations

Review interpretations or rulings of similar documents to inform the current interpretation.

Industry Standards

Recourse to industry standards or common practices can help clarify ambiguous terms.

Bilingual or Multilingual Texts

In multilingual documents, compare the different language versions to elucidate ambiguous terms or provisions.

Presumption against Superfluities

Every word and clause is presumed to have a purpose, and no part of the document is assumed to be superfluous.

Interpretation of the Ghanaian Constitution

The interpretation of the Ghanaian Constitution is governed by principles that are informed by legal precedent, providing a framework for understanding the supreme law of Ghana.

Textual Analysis

Interpreting the words as they are written in the Constitution.

Literal Rule

The plain meaning of the words is considered.

Golden Rule

Used to prevent absurdity or injustice that the literal rule may result in.

Mischief Rule

Focuses on curing the mischief the Constitution sought to remedy.

Contextual Approach

Understanding the Constitution in its broader context.

Harmonious Construction

Each provision should be read to complement others, not contradict them.

Constitutional Objectives

The broader goals and values underlying the Constitution.

Historical Context

Consideration of the history at the time of drafting the Constitution.

The Purposive Approach

Looking at the intentions behind the Constitution.

The Intention of the Framers

What the writers of the Constitution intended to achieve.

The Spirit of the Constitution

Interpreting the ethos and values the Constitution promotes.

Societal Needs

Adapting interpretation to the current needs and values of society.

Presumptions in Interpretation

Presumptions that guide constitutional interpretation.

Presumption of Constitutionality

Laws are presumed to be constitutional until proven otherwise.

Fundamental Rights

A presumption in favor of the protection of fundamental rights.

Deference to Legislature

Recognizing the role of the legislature in law-making.

Principle of Avoidance

Avoiding making a decision on constitutional grounds if unnecessary.

Judicial Restraint

Courts should not decide more than necessary to resolve a case.


Considering whether an issue is appropriate for judicial resolution.

Ghanaian Case Law

Cases that illustrate the rules of interpretation.

Tuffour v. Attorney-General (1980)

Emphasized the supremacy of the Constitution.

New Patriotic Party v. Ghana Broadcasting Corp. (1993)

Highlighted the importance of free speech and fair election coverage.

Attorney-General v. Tsatsu Tsikata (2001)

Discussed the retrospective application of laws and the protection of fundamental rights.

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Presumption of Consistency

The document is presumed to be internally consistent, and an interpretation should harmonize all its parts.

Presumption of Lawfulness

Interpretative preferences lean towards a reading that conforms to the law rather to one that renders it illegal or improper.

Presumption against Inconveniences

Any interpretation that leads to inconvenience or absurdity is to be avoided, if possible, within the reasonable reading of the text.

Similar Document Review

Interpret ambiguous terms by comparing them with similar terms in other documents.

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Judicial Interpretations

Refer to court decisions interpreting similar provisions in other legal documents for guidance.

Consensus of Authorities

Academic and expert opinions on the interpretation of similar non-statutory documents can provide authoritative guidance.

Evolution of Language

Acknowledge that language evolves, and current common usage or meaning may diverge from historic or original usage.

Actual Performance

How the parties have actually been performing under the document may inform interpretation.

Course of Dealing

Consider the past relationship and transactions between the parties to infer the meaning of ambiguous terms.

Trade Usage

Practices and understandings in a particular trade can influence the interpretation of trade-related documents.

Subsequent Conduct

Post-agreement behavior of the parties, though generally of limited use, can sometimes shed light on the intended meaning of unclear terms.

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Case Laws in Ghana: Ejusdem Generis

Ejusdem Generis is a principle used to interpret statutes in Ghanaian law.

Principle Explanation

The Ejusdem Generis rule aids in interpreting phrases with specific and general terms.

Statutory Interpretation

Statutory provisions with lists followed by general terms are restricted to things similar to the list.

Legal Precedent

Precedent helps establish the application of the principle in Ghanaian law.

Theories Supported

The principle falls within theories of statutory construction.

Notable Cases

Examples of cases where the principle was applied or considered.

Judicial Decisions

Details specifics of how Ghanaian courts have applied Ejusdem Generis.

Case Analysis

Analyzing the reasoning in judgments reveals the court's approach to the principle.

Ratio Decidendi

The binding part of decisions that may involve the principle.

Relevant Statutes

Ghanaian statutes that may involve interpretation using Ejusdem Generis.

Acts of Parliament

Specific acts that have been interpreted using the principle.

Subordinate Legislation

Legislation under acts that might need Ejusdem Generis for interpretation.


The application of the principle to constitutional interpretation.

Legal Scholarship

Academic contributions to the understanding of Ejusdem Generis in Ghana.

Law Journals

Articles dissecting the use of the principle in case laws.

Legal Commentaries

Authoritative comments on how Ejusdem Generis fits in Ghana legal system.

Legal Textbooks

Textbooks that clarify the doctrine and its application in case law.