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Legal Maxims: A Compilation of 64 Latin Legal Maxims

Latin Legal Maxims are the most fundamental principles which form the basis of all the modern laws that is derived in the world. In this book, we present you with a comprehensive collection of the most widely acceptable legal maxims, which are considered as the pillars of democracy, the world over.

Legal Maxims with their legal meaning, interpretation, important judicial pronouncements using this maxim, as well as the relevant paragraph where it was mentioned in the said judicial pronouncement. Access the full text of the judgment for a deeper understanding.

1. A fortiori.

From stronger.

An a fortiori argument is an "argument from a stronger reason", meaning that because one fact is true, that a second related and included fact must also be true. If something less likely is true, then something more likely will probably be true as well. People's Union for Civil Liberties and Ors. vs. Union of India (UOI) (16.12.2003 - SC): 63."If the recording of confession by police is found to be necessary by Parliament and if it is in tune with the scheme of law, then an additional safeguard under Section 32(4) and (5) is a fortiori legal. In our considered opinion the provision that requires producing such a person before the Magistrate is an additional safeguard. It gives that person an opportunity to rethink over his Confession."

2. Actori incumbit probatio.

On the plaintiff rests the proving.

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff.Anguo Jiao v Authority (31.07.2003 - NZCA): 23."A Commission of the Institut de Droit International has this year stated the basic principle for international litigation in the same terms: The basic principle relating to evidence and proof is actori incumbit probatio, i.e. the claimant must prove the assertion of facts that he makes. (Annuaire de Instituted Droit International - Session de Bruges Vol 70-1 (2003) 393)"

3. Damnum sine injuria.

Damage without legal injury.

Damage in the sense of money, Loss of comfort , service , health etc. without infringement of a legal right / injury to legal right. It refers to injury which is being suffered by the plaintiff but there is no violation of any legal right of a person. It is not actionable in law even if the act so did was intentional and was done to cause injury to other but without infringing on the legal right of the person. Pune Chapter of Cost Accountants vs. The Union of India and Ors. (01.04.2011 - BOMHC): 7."It is required to be noted that simply because the Petitioner might be affected in their income as some students may get themselves enrolled in newly opened chapter, however that itself is not a ground for striking down the decision of the competent body. It can be damnum sine injuria which means damage without legal injury. Apart from the same, the parent body after considering the material on record and need in the area has decided to open new chapter as per the recommendation of an expert professional body, the grievance made by a local chapter opposing such new chapter in the area is not justifiable at all."

4. Ut res magis valet quam pereat.

It is better for a thing to have effect than to be made void. Liberal interpretations are to be made of deeds, so that the purpose may rather stand than fall; and every grant is to be taken most strongly against the grantor. A construction which reduces the statute to a futility has to be avoided. A statute or any enacting provision therein must be so construed as to make it effective and operative on the principle expressed in the maxim. A liberal construction should be put upon written instruments, so as to uphold them, if possible, and carry into effect the intention of the parties. Ravindra Babu Shriwas and Ors. vs. State of U.P. and Ors. (06.12.2017 - ALLHC): 20."A statute must be construed as a workable instrument. "Ut-res-magis-valet-quam-pereat" is a well known principle of law and on this principle the provision of a statute must be construed as to make it effective and operative. The Courts will reject that construction which will defeat the plain intention of the legislature even though, there may be some inexactitude in the language used. Reducing the legislation to futility shall be avoided and in a case where the intention of the legislature cannot be given effect to, the Court should accept the bolder construction for the purposes of bringing about an effective result."

5. Audi alteram partem.

Let the other side be heard as well.

No person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them. Jan Mohd. vs. The State of Rajasthan and Ors. (12.05.1992 - RAJHC): 30."...promotion was granted to a particular person by the Chancellor as Principal and that order was executed and it was sought to be set aside by a later order. In those facts, it was held that although, the Chancellor has powers to revise that order but that should be done after affording an opportunity of being heard to the affected person. It was in this context that the provision as such was read down and in reading it down it was held that it includes the principle of audi alteram partem. Here, that is not the case. It is not a case of divesting rights, which revested."

6. Actus reus.

Guilty act

The act that proves criminal liability. State of Rajasthan vs. Aanilal (16.12.1985 - RAJHC): 11. "The above bedrock necessarily introduce both, 'actus reus' and 'mens rea'. 'Actus reus' is an act or conduct, where state of mind on the part of the victim is required by the definition of the crime and, 'actus reus' means state of mind. If so, that state of mind is part of the 'actus reus and, if the prosecutions are unable to prove its existence, they must fail." 12. "Mens rea may exist without 'actus reus' but, if there is no 'actus reus', there is no crime."

7. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.

An act does not make a man guilty, unless there be guilty intention. An act does not make a defendant guilty without a guilty mind. In other words, "The act itself does not constitute guilt unless done with a guilty intent." Abdul Sattar Ahmed Pagarkar vs. R.H. Mendsonsa and Ors. (20.02.2003 - BOMHC): 7. "Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea. The intention behind the acts is to be understood. In respect of the offences which are now in question, so far as the present matter is concerned, all offences need existence of an intention to commit an offence with dishonesty. These has to be dishonest intention of causing wrongful loss to the person aggrieved and wrongful gain to person who is to be the target of the investigation and resultant prosecution."

8. ad hominem.

At the person.

It is used to counter another argument. It is based on feelings of prejudice, rather than facts, reason, and logic. It is often a personal attack on someone's character or motive rather than an attempt to address the actual issue at hand. Madras Bar Association vs. Union of India (UOI) (25.09.2014 - SC): 22(ii). "The power of the judicature, while the Constitution stood, could not be usurped or infringed by the executive or the legislature. Secondly, the Criminal Law (Special Provisions) Act, No. 1 of 1962, as well as, the Criminal Law Act, No. 31 of 1962 were aimed at individuals concerned in an abortive coup, and were not legislation effecting criminal law of general application. Although not every enactment ad hominem, and ex post facto, necessarily infringed the judicial power, yet there was such infringement in the present case, by the above two Acts."

9. Actus dei nemini facit injuriam.

The act of God causes injury to no one. Storms, tempests, and the like, are acts of God, being inevitable accidents not caused by man. When an event is caused by the effect of nature without any human intervention, it is called 'an act of God.' No one is responsible for the inevitable accidents. The act of God prejudices no one. Sahib Transport Service, Sankarankoil vs. K. Balasubramaniam and Ors. (23.03.1967 - MADHC): 11."....Should the 'mischance' of the death coming a few hours later, extinguish the heritable right which the statute recognises in the permit? That is what follows from the appellant's contentions before us. But Actus Dei Nemini Facit Injuriam -- the act of God is prejudicial to no one. Once we take the view that there is no abatement of the proceeding and the right to secure renewal does not lapse with the death of the permit holder, the objection to the recognition of the successor in possession of the vehicles as the applicant for renewal falls to the ground."

10. Volenti non fit injuria.

No injury can be done to a willing person. If a person voluntarily consents to an injury, he must bear the loss. One cannot claim damages for the injury he consented to. National Insurance Company Ltd. vs. Kur Singh and Ors. (26.03.2007 - RAJHC): 11."...that the tractor driver victim invited the incident himself by towing the heavier vehicle based in essence on the maxim volenti non fit injuria deserve to fail in this case in law as well as on facts. It may be noted that such kind of defence could have been raised only if the injuries arose out of a risk in respect of which the non-applicants did not owe any duty to the claimants, or in respect of which they had fulfilled such duty as they owed. In such a situation, the action for compensation would have failed whether or not the tractor driver ran the risk voluntarily, since the truck driver had done him no wrong at all."

11. Ubi jus ibi remedium.

There is no wrong without a remedy or where there is a legal right there is a remedy. An action will lie for an injury although no actual damage be sustained. Anita Kushwaha and Ors. vs. Pushap Sudan and Ors. (19.07.2016 - SC): 14. "These principles were over a period of time recognised in the form of Bill of Rights and Constitutions of various countries which acknowledged the Roman maxim 'Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium' i.e. every right when it is breached must be provided with a right to a remedy. Judicial pronouncements have delved and elaborated on the concept of access to justice to include among other aspects the State's obligation to make available to all its citizens the means for a just and peaceful settlement of disputes between them as to their respective legal rights."

12. Omnia praesumuntur rite et dowee probetur in contrarium solenniter esse acta.

All the acts are presumed to have been done rightly and regularly. When acts are of official nature and went through the process of scrutiny by official persons it is presumed that all things have been rightly and duly performed until it is proved to the contrary. Gian Chand and Ors. vs. State of Haryana (23.07.2013 - SC): 29. "Section 114 of the Act 1872 gives rise to the presumption that every official act done by the police was regularly performed and such presumption requires rebuttal. The legal maxim omnia praesumuntur rite et dowee probetur in contrarium solenniter esse acta i.e., all the acts are presumed to have been done rightly and regularly, applies. When acts are of official nature and went through the process of scrutiny by official persons, a presumption arises that the said acts have regularly been performed."

Lumbini Baruah vs. Cotton College, Guwahati and Ors. (20.08.1996 - GUHC): 12. "In the instant case the application was duly processed and scrutinised and thereafter it passed through the Sub-Committee which recommended the case of the petitioner for admission after attaining its full satisfaction regarding the eligibility of the petitioner and thereafter the Dean only on being fully satisfied allowed the petitioner to be admitted in-the course. The Maxim OMNIA PRAESUMUNTUR RITE ET DOWEE PROBETUR IN CONTRARIUM SOLENNITER ESSE ACTA, i.e. All acts are presumed to have been done rightly and regularly, applies. When acts are of official nature and went through the process of scrutiny by the official persons a presumption arises in favour of the performance of the An execution of an official act is presumed to rightly and duly performed until the contrary is proved. The official act is presumed to be done with honestly and discretion."

13. Nullus Commodum Capere Protect De Injuria Sua Propria.

No man can take advantage of his own wrong. A party may not derive an advantage from its own unlawful acts. Eureka Forbes Limited vs. Allahabad Bank and Ors. (03.05.2010 - SC): 37. "Maxim Nullus commodum capere potest de injuria sua propria has a clear mandate of law that, a person who by manipulation of a process frustrates the legal rights of others, should not be permitted to take advantage of his wrong or manipulations. In the present case Respondent Nos. 2 & 3 and the appellant have acted together while disposing off the hypothecated goods, and now, they cannot be permitted to turn back to argue, that since the goods have been sold, liability cannot be fastened upon respondent Nos. 2 & 3 and in any case on the appellant."

14. Ex injuria jus non oritur.

Law (or right) does not arise from injustice. A legal right or entitlement cannot arise from an unlawful act or omission. When a fact arises from an illegal or unlawful acts or omissions, it cannot form the basis of law or legal rights, even if it is public or prominent. Devendra Kumar vs. State of Uttaranchal and Ors. (29.07.2013 - SC): 23. "More so, if the initial action is not in consonance with law, the subsequent conduct of a party cannot sanctify the same. "Subla Fundamento cedit opus" - a foundation being removed, the superstructure falls. A person having done wrong cannot take advantage of his own wrong and plead bar of any law to frustrate the lawful trial by a competent Court. In such a case the legal maxim Nullus Commodum Capere Potest De Injuria Sua Propria applies. The persons violating the law cannot be permitted to urge that their offence cannot be subjected to inquiry, trial or investigation. Nor can a person claim any right arising out of his own wrong doing(Juri Ex Injuria Non Oritur)."

15. Fraus et jus nunquam cohabitant.

Fraud and justice never dwell together. Fraud corrupts justice regardless of the good faith or just intentions. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. vs. Rajendra Singh and Ors. (14.03.2000 - SC): 3. "Fraud and justice never dwell together." (Franc et jus nunquam cohabitant) is a pristine maxim which has never lost its temper over all these centuries. Lord Denning observed in a language without equivocation that "no judgment of a Court, no order of a Minister can be allowed to stand if it has been obtained by fraud, for, fraud unravels everything" in Lazarus Estate Ltd. v. Beasley 1956 (1) QB 702."

16. Subla Fundamento cadit opus.

A foundation being removed, the superstructure falls. If the initial action is not in conformity with law, all subsequent and consequential proceedings fall through for the reason that illegality strikes at the root of the entire event. Zonal Manager, Life Insurance Corporation of India and Ors. vs. Shiv Kumar Sharma and Ors. (15.11.2007 - ALLHC): 5. "The Common Law doctrine of public policy can be enforced wherever an action affects/ offends public interest or where harmful result of permitting the injury to the public at large is evident. More so, if initial action is not in consonance with law, the subsequent conduct of a party cannot sanctify the same. "Subla Fundamento cedit opus"- a foundation being removed, the superstructure falls. A person having done wrong cannot take advantage of his own wrong and plead bar of any law to frustrate the lawful trial by a competent court."

17. Ratio decidendi.

The reason for the decision. It is a legal phrase which refers to the legal, moral, political and social principles used by a court to compose the rationale of a particular judgment