Interpretation of Law in the Global World: From Particularism to a Universal Approach

pp 71-86


Judicial Interpretation of Bilingual and Multilingual Laws: A European and Hong Kong Comparison

  • Deborah CaoAffiliated withLaw School Socio-Legal Research Centre, Griffith University Email author 

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In today’s globalized world, there has been an increase in the use of two or more languages in law and judicial process as in the case of Hong Kong and the European Union and the Court of Justice of the European Union. In such bilingual/multilingual jurisdictions, one basic legal principle of interpretation is that the law in different official languages is equally authentic and is deemed the same, the ‘equal authenticity rule’. Such a principle governs and guides both the legislative drafting process and the judicial interpretation of laws. This chapter describes the legislative drafting process of bilingual and multilingual laws and discusses judicial interpretation of such laws. It outlines the basic legal rule of equal authenticity followed by an examination of the situations in Hong Kong and the EU. It also discusses how the courts approach linguistic disagreements found or allegedly found in bilingual and multilingual laws. Some of the interpretive rules adopted by the courts in the search for meaning and certainty are also highlighted.