Ejusdem Generis is a Latin maxim, literally translates to ‘of the same kind’ and in the legal context implies a case where ‘general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, where the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words. It resembles a general and similar class, where words illustrate a category of objects having similar characteristics, deduced from the specific class.
In the Thakur Amar Singhji v. the State of Rajasthan case, the ordeal in consideration was the Rajasthan Land Reforms and Resumptions of Jagirs Act of 1952. The validity of the act was questioned and it was claimed that the holders of the Bhomichartenure would not be classified as jagirdars. In agreement with the petitioners, the Court stated that the creation of a jagirrequires that it be through a grant, and consequently if the Bhomichar tenure is not held under a grant, it does not classify as a jagir. This conclusion was reached with reference to Article 31-A of the Constitution of India where the word ‘jagir’ cannot be read ejusdem generis with ‘other similar grants’. In this instance, ejusdem generis is not applicable as to invoke the maxim the words of a general nature must follow specific and distinct categories and not the reverse.
We see an appropriate application of the maxim in the English case Evans v. Cross where the interpretation of the words ‘other devices’ in Section 48(9) of the Road Traffic Act of 1930 was implemented through the maxim ejusdem generic. By the Act, the ‘traffic sign’ referred to ‘all signals, warning signposts, direction posts, signs or other devices. The Court rules that since a white line painted on the road is not a ‘device’, it could not be categorised as a traffic sign.
This rule is important for unforeseen situations that arise but were not explicitly mentioned when the statute was drafted, bringing within the ambit of the statute things that are of a similar or same class.