JOURNAL OF UWC FACULTY OF LAW | ISSN 2077-4907 | Short URL www.ldd.org.za

Legitimacy and interpretation in Ghanaian law: The literal interpretation theory versus the value-based interpretation theory

Volume: Volume 8(1) - 2004

Article type: Refereed article

Author/s: Mensah, Kwadwo B

Kwadwo Mensah focuses on the conflict between two dominant theories of interpretation in Ghanaian law, the literal interpretation theory (LIT) which argues that documents should be interpreted literally regardless of the consequences, and the values-based interpretation (VBIT) which postulates a central role for moral and political considerations in the task of interpretation. The LIT that is propounded in Ghanaian courts, he argues, is strongly influenced by the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty derived from English constitutional theory.

Contrary to the Ghanaian position, however, the legitimacy of interpretation in English law is not based on legal legitimacy alone but also on historical legitimacy reflecting the values of English society. Because of the nature of the typical African polity, the author states, attempts to introduce English constitutional doctrines invariably create a 'tyrant's charter'. The article concludes by suggesting that interpretation ought to be based on VBIT constructed on a historical legitimacy accepted in Ghanaian and African society.

About the author/s

Kwadwo B Mensah

Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Ghana, Member of the New York Bar

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