This article has been written by Oishika Banerji of Amity Law School, Kolkata. This article provides a detailed list of legal maxims and their applications for its readers. 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Table of Contents


A legal maxim is a well-established legal idea, proposal, or doctrine, generally expressed in Latin. Majority of these Latin maxims date back to the middle ages in European governments that employed Latin as their official language. These principles aid courts across the globe in implementing current laws in a fair and reasonable manner, allowing them to resolve issues before them. Such principles do not have legal force, but when courts use them in determining legal matters or the legislature adopts them in enacting legislation, they take on the shape of law and serve as the foundation for sound judgments.  We refer to it as a single word or a phrase to avoid using extensive definitions. Take, for example, the maxim ‘ab initio,’ which means ‘from the beginning of’ or ‘from the beginning of anything,’ so instead of writing a statement, we can use the word ab initio, which is also useful in practice. Early English philosophers’ attitudes about the application of legal maxims are laudatory. In his work ‘Doctor and Student’, Thomas Hobbes had claimed that legal maxims have the same force as deeds and legislation.

Download Now

Important legal maxims one should know about

Every piece of legislation or act is written with a certain purpose in mind. The judiciary has an important responsibility of interpreting the provisions in such a way that the legislators’ intent is not thwarted. Legal maxims serve a vital function in assisting the judiciary by giving a method and standards for interpreting the legislation.

Ab initio

Ab initio is a frequently used Latin maxim that signifies ‘from the very beginning’. 

Literal meaning

The literal meaning of ‘ab initio’ is ‘from the very beginning of the law/ act it was wrong’. Such a term is used with respect to laws, agreements, a deed made between parties, marriage, and related matters. When something is described as ‘void ab initio’, it means the thing was never created or void to begin with.

Interpretation of Ab initio

When a court deems anything to be a case of ab initio, it indicates that the court’s decision applies from the moment an act had taken place or the circumstances for the case in question were in place and not from the time the court actually ruled on the subject. In contracts, property, and marriages, the word void ab initio is frequently used. 

Take for example, when a police officer enters ‘A’s property with the authority of a court order that allows him to confiscate a costly painting but along with it he also takes away a beautiful marble sculpture, he is considered to be a trespasser ab initio. This is because he misused the power of the court.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Keshavan Madhava Menon v. State of Bombay (1951)

The Supreme Court of India while deciding on the case of Keshavan Madhava Menon v. State of Bombay (1951) had ruled that Article 13(1) of the Indian Constitution did not apply to the case since the crime was committed before the Constitution was enacted, and so the petitioner’s 1949 proceedings were unaffected. The Court noted that previous and concluded transactions, as well as rights that were already vested under existing laws, would be unaffected by the Constitution’s coming into force, even though the laws would become void under Article 13(1) of the Constitution. The Court had also observed that Article 13(1) did not declare previous legislation that was incompatible with fundamental rights invalid from the very beginning or for all intents and purposes.

“Article 13(1) of the Indian Constitution does not declare existing laws that are incompatible with fundamental rights void ab initio; rather, it renders such laws ineffective and void with regard to fundamental rights exercised on and after the Constitution’s beginning date. It has no retrospective effect, so if an act was committed prior to the commencement of the new Constitution in violation of the provisions of any law that was in force at the time of the act, a prosecution for that act, which began before the Constitution came into force, can be pursued and the accused punished in accordance with that law, even after the new Constitution came into force”.

  1. Delhi Development Authority v. Kochhar Construction Work & Ors (1996)

The Supreme Court of India while deciding on the case of Delhi Development Authority v. Kochhar Construction Work & Ors (1996) used the Latin term ‘ab initio’ to arrive at a conclusion that the proceedings were ab initio faulty since the firm in whose name the actions were initiated was not registered at the time of the institution of the proceedings. The interpretation of Sections 69(2) and(3) of the Indian Partnership Act, 1932, read with Section 20 of the Arbitration Act, 1940, is the subject of the appeal in the present case. The respondent, an unregistered business, filed a complaint in the High Court of Delhi under Section 20 of the Arbitration Act, 1940. The Delhi Development Authority filed a counterclaim, claiming that the proceedings were barred by the statute of limitations. The suit was approved by a learned Single Judge, who also ordered the appointment of an arbitrator. The Respondent filed a first appeal against that ruling before a Division Bench of the High Court. That appeal was dismissed holding that the subsequent registration of the firm cured the initial defect since that was within the period of limitation. Subsequently, an appeal before the Apex Court was filed. 

“The Supreme Court granted the appeal, overturning the High Court’s decision and ruling that the proceedings were ab initio defective since the business in whose name the actions were started was not registered at the time of the institution of the proceedings”.

  1. Shiv Kumar & Ors. v. Union of India (2019)

The issue before the Supreme Court of India while deciding on the case of Shiv Kumar & Ors. v. Union of India (2019) was whether a property purchaser can use the provisions of Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013, after receiving notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894

The Apex Court had voiced that a purchaser who receives notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 does not acquire any rights in the land and has no right to claim land under the Policy since the sale is ab initio void. Some of the notable paras with respect to the discussed maxims are provided hereunder:

“It has been established that purchasers cannot object to the taking of possession procedures on any grounds. A purchaser who receives notice under Section 4 does not gain any rights in the land since the sale is ab initio void, and he or she has no right to claim land under the Policy.”

“The Act of 2013 does not confer any right on purchasers whose sale is ab initio void. Such void transactions are not validated under the Act of 2013. No rights are conferred by the provisions contained in the 2013 Act on such a purchaser as against the State.”

“A person cannot claim the land or declaration after no title has been bestowed upon him to argue that the land should be handed back to him because void is, ‘ab initio,’ a nullity and is inoperative. By requesting a declaration under Section 24 of the Act of 2013, a person cannot enforce ripe fruits based on a void transaction to begin claiming title and control of the property, this would amount to conferment of advantage not envisioned by the law.”

Actus legis nemini facit injuriam

Actus legis nemini facit injuriam is a well-established Latin maxim that signifies ‘The act of the law does injury to no one’. 

Literal meaning

The literal interpretation of the maxim is that no one is prejudiced by a judicial action and legitimate action does not need any qualifications. There is a prevalent assumption that initiating a lawsuit against another party will not affect the second party (other than a frivolous action). As a result, no one may be harmed by a legal action. An act of legislation should be restricted in its application so that it does not infringe on anyone’s rights.

Interpretation of Actus legis nemini facit injuriam

Particular laws that are in the public interest may be harmful to some people. However, there are no current therapies for such harm, because the law applies equally to everyone, modifications in the law cannot be made to benefit a small number of individuals. When a law-given authority is abused, the law puts the person misusing it in the same position as if they had behaved entirely without authority in the first place and this, it has been remarked, is a just principle based on the maxim that the law wrongs no man.

A tenant whose house is damaged by fire or storm is not obligated to reconstruct the house to the detriment of himself, even if he is not dismissed from his tenancy to the detriment of his landlord. Unless he makes a covenant of commitment to repair and maintain the premises, except in the event of a fire, tempest, or other disasters, he will be required to rebuild if the premises are destroyed by fire or other casualties. If he is a lessee, he must pay the rent until the end of his term, or if he is a tenant, from year to year, until he determines the tenancy by notice. The landlord is also not obligated to rebuild in the event of a fire, even if he may have insured the property and received payment from the insurance company. To protect the renter against all of these hassles, he must include a particular clause in the lease or agreement. The legal maxim, Actus legis nemini facit injuriam, will be applied in this situation.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Baburao Ganpatro Tirmalle v. Bhimappa Venkappa Kandakur (1996)

In the case of Baburao Ganpatro Tirmalle v. Bhimappa Venkappa Kandakur (1996), the Court is obligated to apply the concept of actus legis nemini facit injuriam and render justice to those who have been wronged. The Court must then issue appropriate instructions allowing the tenant to reconstruct the premises in line with the previous decision and, if possible, in accordance with the authorised plan, but only to the degree necessary to accommodate the tenant. The landlord is responsible for covering the costs spent in this regard.

“The lease is still in effect, and the lessee cannot be ejected from the premises by the lessor. When he abuses the Court’s power, it’s as if he never had the jurisdiction to demolish the structure in the first place. In such a case, the Court is obligated to apply the principle actus legis nemini facit injuriam and render justice to those who have been wronged.”

  1. K.Shajahan v. Subramani Gounder (2008)

In the case of K.Shajahan v. Subramani Gounder (2008), the Madras High Court had ruled that the maxim actus legis nemini facit injuriam implies and suggests that no one may protest or allege that he or she had been mistreated by any actions taken by the Court. In this case, the police had laid the police report in terms of Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, as against the accused of the offences under Sections 447, 506(2) read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. After the accused pleaded not guilty and completed the necessary processes and formalities, the trial began. The accused was eventually acquitted by the learned Magistrate. A revision petition was filed before the Madras High Court challenging the irregularities in the initial decision. 

“Actus legis nemini facit injuriam means that no one may protest or say that he has been mistreated by the Court’s actions. In this case, it is self-evident that one of the prosecution witnesses secured delivery of the property in question by Court procedure, and the Magistrate has made his conclusion to that effect. The Magistrate, however, based on another witness’s statement, came to the judgment that the delivery granted was just a paper delivery, not an actual delivery, and that possession remained with the accused. In reality, the Magistrate approached the case with this in mind and concluded the case with an incorrect decision.”

  1. P.G. Pattabi v. Mythili (2010)

In the case of P.G. Pattabi v. Mythili (2010), the Madras High Court had declared that the latin maxim, actus legis nemini facit injuriam, no one may object to or allege that he or she has been hurt by the Court’s legal actions. In this case, the Court had observed that revision petitioner’s complaints would all amount to finding fault with the Court for following the processes. In such an instance, it must be determined if the revision petitioner suffered any material harm during the execution processes or not.

“The legal maxim Actus legis nemini facit injuriam would imply  that no one could object to or allege that he had been mistreated by the Court’s legal actions. The revision petitioner’s complaints would amount to finding fault with the Court for following the processes. In such an instance, it must be determined if the revision petitioner suffered any material harm during the execution processes. Simply pointing out flaws in the Court’s method will not suffice to have an otherwise valid court order overturned.”

Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea

Actus Reus and Mens Rea are the two main components of criminal law. While the unlawful act is known as Actus Reus, the state of mind that leads to such an act is known as Mens Rea. Mens Rea is the source of the Latin maxim Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea. The maxim clarifies the application of Mens Rea in criminal law.

Literal meaning

The literal meaning of the well-known legal maxim Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea is that “an act does not make anyone guilty unless there is a criminal intent or a guilty mind”.

Interpretation of Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea

Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea says that any act must be done with a guilty mind in order to be criminal in nature. To convict the defendant, it must be established that the unlawful conduct was committed with the intent to commit a crime. The purpose of the accused to undertake the precise conduct is just as significant as the act itself in proving the accused’s guilt. As a result, the mere commission of a criminal act or a violation of the law is insufficient to create a crime. It should be used in conjunction with the presence of wrongdoing. Furthermore, the mens rea is critical in determining the gravity of the crime committed. 

The blameworthy mental state is the most important component. Its absence might render the responsibility null and void. However, there are several exceptions, such as strict responsibility, to the notion that there is no crime without a guilty mind. It is not essential to prove that a defendant possessed the requisite mens rea for the act committed under strict responsibility. The significance of this maxim may be seen in Section 14 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. It indicates that information that reveals a person’s state of mind or intent are important facts in the case.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Brend v. Wood (1946)

In the case of Brend v. Wood (1946), the Court debated whether it was necessary to assume that a conviction for a crime needed proof of mens rea. Lord Goddard CJ had observed that it is important to note that under common law, there must always be a mens rea for a crime to be committed. If a person can establish that he behaved without mens rea, he can defend himself against a criminal charge. Although there are legislation and regulations in which Parliament has deemed proper to create offences and hold persons accountable before criminal courts notwithstanding the lack of mens rea. It is not the court’s responsibility to be acute in determining that mens rea is not a constituent component of the crime.

“It is critical for the protection of the subject’s liberty that a court remember that unless a legislation expressly or by necessary inference excludes mens rea as a component portion of a crime, the court should not declare a man guilty of an offence against the criminal law unless he has a guilty mentality.”

  1. R.Balakrishna Pillai v. State of Kerala (2003)

The appellants in the case of R.Balakrishna Pillai v. State of Kerala (2003) were found guilty under Section 5(2) read with Section 5(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, of causing M/s.Graphite India Ltd, Bangalore, to obtain a valuable thing, namely, electricity, by selling it to the said company illegally and abusing their official position as public servants, resulting in a monetary benefit to M/s.GIL of Rs.19 lakhs and odd.

“A man’s criminal culpability would be attached if he broke the law. The norm, however, is not absolute, and it is subject to the constraints set out in the Latin maxim, actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea. It means that without a guilty mind, there can be no crime. To hold someone criminally responsible, it must be proven that his actions resulted in an illegal act, and that his actions were accompanied by a legally blameworthy mental attitude. As a result, every crime has two components, a physical element and a mental aspect, which are known as actus reus and mens rea, respectively.”

Actori incumbit onus probandi

Actori incumbit onus probandi, a legal maxim in Latin, states that before a plaintiff at law or a complaint at equity may win their case, they must establish a solid title or claim.

Literal meaning

The literal meaning of the legal maxim is that the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff.

Interpretation of Actori incumbit onus probandi

The broad idea that the party who raises an issue has the burden of evidence is derived from the Latin phrase actori incumbit onus probandi. It is a necessary premise for a fair trial since it requires both the claimant and the respondent to support any factual charges made on them. In a civil case, the court conducts the investigation, but the plaintiff is responsible for completing it and submitting all proof and evidence to the court. Filling out a case is not enough to win a lawsuit, one must also back it up with solid and sufficient evidence to persuade the jury. The prosecutor has the burden of proof in criminal cases. The scope and subject matter of the burden of proof might cover subject matters such as evidence and pleadings.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Sh. Kedar Nath Kohli v. Sh. Sardul Singh (2003)

The decision was made in the case of Sh. Kedar Nath Kohli v. Sh. Sardul Singh (2003) has stated that the rule of law being ‘actori incumbit onus probandi,’ signifies that the plaintiff or the prosecution has to bear the burden of proof. The plaintiff’s case must stand on its own, and the plaintiff cannot claim that his claim is proven because the defendant’s argument is weak.

  1. Kuthalinga Nadar v. D.D.Murugesan (2011)

The legal maxim actori incumbit onus probandi was applied in the case of Kuthalinga Nadar v. D.D.Murugesan (2011) to arrive at a decision. The original plaintiff filed a second appeal, claiming that the suit’s second item property (7 cents) is part of the suit’s first item property. The defendant, according to the plaintiff, interfered with the plaintiff’s enjoyment of the second suit property (7 cents). The plaintiff had the burden of proof to show the same, and as he had failed to do it, the second appeal was denied by the Madras High Court. 

“According to the adage actori incumbit onus probandi, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to show his case, and he cannot poke holes in the defendants’ case and ask them to prove that the plaintiff has no right to the suit property.”

Actus curiae neminem gravabit

This idea that no one should suffer as a result of a court’s error or a delay in the proceedings has been deemed to be important to the system of justice and its application to Indian law. The same has been incorporated by means of the legal maxim ‘actus curiae neminem gravabit’. 

Literal meaning

The maxim ‘actus curiae neminem gravabit’, means that the act of the Court shall prejudice no one.

Interpretation of Actus curiae neminem gravabit

If the Court makes a mistake in providing the information, the litigant’s duty, while not entirely gone, is at least shared by the Court. If the litigant acts on the basis of the knowledge, the courts will not hold him liable for a mistake that he made. There is no greater standard for guiding the Court than that no act of the Court should hurt a litigant, and it is the Court’s bounden obligation to ensure that if a person is harmed by a Court error, he is restored to the position he would have held but for the error. The maxim Actus curiae neminem gravabit appropriately summarises this.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs 

  1. Kalabharati Advertising v. Hemant Vimalnath Narichania & Ors (2010)

In the case of Kalabharati Advertising v. Hemant Vimalnath Narichania & Ors (2010), the issue surrounded the appellant, who managed an advertisement hoarding firm in Bombay and had approached a society in 2001 to request permission to install a 40’x20′ hoarding in the society’s yard.

“When a scenario is anticipated in which the Court is under a duty to remedy the injustice done to a party by the Court’s act, the maxim ‘actus curiae neminem gravabit’, which says that the Court’s conduct shall disadvantage no one, comes into play. The above mentioned maxim is to be applied in a case where a party requesting the Court’s jurisdiction has achieved an unearned or unfair advantage that has to be negated.”

  1. Neeraj Kumar Sainy and Ors v. State of U.P and Ors (2017)

The case of Neeraj Kumar Sainy and Ors v. State of U.P and Ors (2017) concerned default in counselling procedures in relation to the test of UPPGMEE-2016. The Supreme Court of India had decided that the legal maxim, actus curiae neminem gravabit cannot be used in isolation. The facts must provide sustenance to it.

“One cannot wallow in the luxury of lethargy, maybe developing the notion that forgetting is a virtue, and then wake up and take refuge behind the dictum ‘actus curiae neminem gravabit’ after the time has passed. It’s simply not acceptable.”

  1. Benignae faciendae sunt interpretationes chartarum, ut res magis valeat quam pereat

Literal meaning

Liberal constructions and interpretations are different, so they have an effect rather than fail.

Interpretation of Benignae faciendae sunt interpretationes chartarum, ut res magis valeat quam pereat

The legal maxim ‘benignae faciendae sunt interpretationes chartarum, ut res magis valeat quam pereat’ signifies that construction of documents are to be made favourably, so that the instrument may rather avail than perish. Put simply, documents must be constructed in such a way that the instrument will serve rather than die.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs 

  1. Harihar Banerji and Ors. v. Ramsashi Roy and Ors (1918)

The Bombay High Court while deciding on the case of Harihar Banerji and Ors. v. Ramsashi Roy and Ors (1918) was considering an appeal in which ejectment was brought not by landowners or occupiers against trespassers, but by landlords of a specific piece of land against their former tenants in order to reclaim possession on the grounds that their tenancy had been decided by an effective notice to leave validly that was duly served.

“That the test of their sufficiency is what they would mean to tenants presumably familiar with all the facts and circumstances concerning the holding to which they purport to refer, not what they would mean to a stranger ignorant of all those facts and circumstances; and, further, that they are to be construed ut res magis valeat quam pereat, not with a desire to find faults in them that would render them defective.”

  1. Bhailal Jagadish v. Additional Deputy Commr. and Ors (1952)

The case of Bhailal Jagadish v. Additional Deputy Commr. and Ors (1952) that appeared before the Madhya Pradesh High Court concerns issues surrounding the termination of tenancy. The Court was involved in interpreting a written document and its scope. 

“An instrument should be interpreted ‘ut res magis valeat quam pereat’, not with the intent of finding a flaw in it that would render it faulty. A written document should be accorded a broad interpretation and given such meaning as would carry out and execute the parties’ desire to the maximum degree possible. This rule applies to the interpretation of a statute’s text.”

Delegatus non potest delegare

Literal meaning 

According to the doctrine of delegatus non potest delegare, “one who is delegated, cannot further re-delegated i.e. a delegate cannot further delegate.”

Interpretation of Delegatus non potest delegare

The maxim ‘delegatus non potest delegare’ is a rule of construction that states that a discretion conferred by a statute is prima facie intended to be exercised by the authority on which the statute has conferred it and no other authority, but that this intention may be negated by any contrary indications found in the statute’s language, scope, or object.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Hemdard Dawakhana v. Union of India (1959)

The present case of Hemdard Dawakhana v. Union of India (1959) that appeared before the Supreme Court of India concerned whether conferment of power on the executive to add to diseases falling within the mischief of statute amounts to a delegation of legislative power or not.

“The Supreme Court ruled in this case that the delegation of legislative power by the legislature to the executive is not prohibited by our constitution. However, it is now generally established that the legislature cannot transfer fundamental legislative powers to the executive. It indicates that legislative policy must be established by the legislature and that the legislature cannot form a parallel legislature by handing this role to the administration. Delegation of legislative authority does not imply a waiver of important legislative tasks”

  1. Ultra Tech Cement Limited v. The Union of India and Ors (2014)

The issue before the Kerala High Court while deciding on the case of UltraTech Cement Limited v. The Union of India and Ors (2014) was the constitutionality of Section 30 of the Railways Act, 1989 which stated that the powers provided under the provision cannot be further delegated to railway officers. 

“The Kerala High Court in the present case had observed that sub-delegation entails a second delegation of the same authority, which was first given by the legislature. The controlling premise is that the delegate’s legislative rights must be exercised by him alone. A delegate can only delegate his power farther if the parent legislation allows it. The doctrine delegatus non potest delegare, which states that a delegate cannot delegate farther, comes into play in the given scenario. Thus, if a law grants the Central Government the right to create regulations, it cannot transfer such authority to any other official unless the parent law expressly authorised the Government to do so.”

Damnum sine injuria

Damnum sine injuria is a maxim that refers to damage sustained by the plaintiff but no violation of a person’s legal rights.

Literal meaning

Damnum sine injuria literally translates as ‘loss or damage in terms of money, property, or any physical loss that occurs without breach of any legal right.’ Even if the conduct was purposeful and done with the aim of inflicting injury to someone else but without infringing on the person’s legal rights, it is not actionable in law.

Interpretation of Damnum sine injuria

Damages without injury, or damages in which there is no infringement of a legal right, are what this legal maxim alludes to. In the instance of damnum sine injuria, there is no basis of action because there is no breach of a legal right. There is an unspoken legal concept that there are no remedies for any moral violation until and unless a legal right is violated. Even though the wrongdoer’s behaviour was intentional, the court may refuse to award any damages.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Gloucester Grammar School case (1410)

In this case, the defendant was a teacher at the plaintiff’s school who had quit his position after a brawl and opened a new school in the neighbourhood. Because of the teacher’s popularity, many students followed in his footsteps and enrolled at his competitor school. As a result, the plaintiff sustained financial damages, prompting the filing of an indemnity lawsuit in a court of law. The issue before the court was whether the defendant may be found accountable under the doctrine of ‘damnum sine injuria’ or not.

“The decision was made under the legal maxim of damnum sine injuria. It was solely based on the idea that a person who has not been the victim of a legal wrong is not entitled to compensation. In certain circumstances, compensation is sought on an arbitrary basis. However, in other cases, this philosophy appears to be incorrect, as many of the true criminals go unpunished, resulting in the loss of innocent people. Law conceptions change with time, and new notions are accepted as needed. Before judging a case, it is required to consider various additional factors in order to implement this approach. Before detaining a person, the backdrop, circumstance, and purpose must all be examined.”

  1. Ushaben v. Bhagyalaxmi Chitra Mandir (1978)

In this instance, the plaintiff claimed that the persistent sounds of religious invocation were infringing on her religious feelings, and she requested a judicial injunction. The plaintiff’s request was refused because the court ruled that any harm to religious sensibilities cannot be viewed as a breach of legal rights.

“The plaintiffs and other Hindus may feel veneration for the Goddesses in question, but what legal right do the defendants deny them by screening the video in the exercise of their prima facie legal right?  The defendants exhibit the film which is certified and they do so in exercise of their legal right. No legal right of the plaintiffs is infringed.”

Ejusdem generis

There are certain general principles of interpretation that have been applied by the courts from time to time and one of them is the construction ejusdem generis.

Literal meaning

Ejusdem generis is a Latin phrase that means ‘of the same kind’. It is used to interpret legislation that is written in a haphazard manner. When a law mentions certain classifications of people or things before referring to them in general, the general assertions only apply to the same people or things who are expressly named. For example, if legislation mentions automobiles, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, and other motor-powered vehicles, the term ‘vehicles’ does not include aircraft since the list is limited to land-based transportation.

Interpretation of ejusdem generis

Words of a comparable type are referred to as ejusdem generis. The rule is that if two or more words have a similar quality (e.g., they belong to the same class), any subsequent generic terms should be interpreted as referring to that class only. Unless the context dictates otherwise, generic terms should be given their natural meaning like all other words. However, when a general term is followed by particular words from a different category, the general word may be assigned a more limited meaning from the same category. As the legislature has revealed its aim to that effect by employing the particular terms of a separate genus, the general statement draws its meaning from the preceding special expressions.

The principle of ejusdem generis does not apply everywhere. If the context of law precludes the use of this rule, it has no bearing on how broad phrases are interpreted. The concept of ejusdem generis is based on the premise that if the legislature wanted generic terms to be employed in an unlimited meaning, it would not have chosen specific words at all.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Thakur Amar Singhji v. State of Rajasthan (1955)

The legitimacy of the Rajasthan Land Reforms and Resumption of Jagirs Act, 1952 was challenged in Thakur Amar Singhji v. State of Rajasthan (1955). It was claimed that the holders of one of the tenures, known as Bhomichar tenure, were not jagirdars.

“We do not reach this conclusion on the basis of the argument that the word ‘Jagir’ in Article 31-A of the Constitution should be read ejusdem generis with ‘other similar grants,’ because the true scope of the ‘ejusdem generis’ rule is that words of a general nature following specific and particular words should be construed as limited to things of the same nature as those specified, and not the other way around, that specific words that precede are controlled by the general words which follow.”

  1. Lilavati Bai v. Bombay State (1957)

The petitioner in Lilavati Bai v. Bombay State (1957) was the widow of a tenant of certain property, which she had deserted. The respondent requisitioned the premises after discovering that it was unoccupied under Section 6(4)(a) of the Bombay Land Requisition Act, 1948, for the public purpose of housing a government officer.

“The rule ejusdem generis, which was sought to be articulated in support of the petitioner, may or may not apply. When the legislature used the words ‘or otherwise,’ it appeared to cover other situations that may not fall within the scope of the previous sections, such as a situation where the tenant’s possession has been terminated due to trespass by a third party. The legislation wanted to address all potential scenarios in which a vacancy may arise for whatever cause. As a result, rather than utilising the words ejusdem generis in conjunction with the previous sentences of the explanation, the legislature used them in a broad meaning.”

Functus officio 

Literal meaning 

The doctrine of functus officio (that is, having done his job) states that once an arbitrator makes a judgment on the matters before him or her, he or she has no ability to reconsider it. This idea has a long history in international arbitration and is recognised by many national legislation

Interpretation of Functus officio

A losing litigant frequently tries to re-engage the court by bringing up an overlooked point or new evidence. This is due to their lack of understanding of a judicial decision’s finality. With the Judicature Act, 1873, this idea was introduced into common law practice in order to give finality to the current ruling and allow for appeals to a higher authority. The disputes would never come to an end and justice would never be administered if judicial judgments were not final and could be reopened at the request and application of all dissatisfied plaintiffs. As a result, once a decision is made, the judge no longer has the ability to decide on it.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. State Bank of India & Ors v. S.N. Goyal (2008)

In the case of State Bank of India & Ors v. S.N. Goyal (2008), the Supreme Court of India was considering an appeal against a judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, that was filed by the defendant employer (State Bank of India). The employer’s removal from his service was challenged before the Apex Court in this case. 

“The learned counsel for the respondent contended that the Appointing Authority became functus officio once he passed the order dated 18.1.1995 agreeing with the penalty proposed by the Disciplinary Authority and cannot thereafter revise/review/modify the said order.”

  1. Re: VGM Holdings Ltd (1942)

After the First World War, Parliament voted to criminalise the granting of financial assistance by a firm for the aim of acquiring its own shares in reaction to infamous scandals and widespread unhappiness created by asset strippers’ speculative actions. The case of Re: VGM Holdings Ltd (1942) concerned this ratio. 

“The Court had ruled in this case that once a judge signs an order that is recorded in the register, he becomes functus officio. This means that he won’t be able to change the terms of his order after that. Only a higher court has the authority to alter the order.”

Ignorantia facti excusat; ignorantia juris non-excusat

Literal meaning 

The Latin maxim ignorantia juris non excusat means ignorance of the law is no excuse and the Latin maxim ignorantia facti excusat means ignorance of fact is an excuse. 

Interpretation of Ignorantia facti excusat; ignorantia juris non-excusat

The west will be present wherever the east is. It denotes the presence of an opposing object at all times. As a result, where there is knowledge, there will also be ignorance. Ignorantia facti excusat is a Latin aphorism that states that knowing a fact or making a factual mistake is an excuse. It can be used in both civil and criminal proceedings. It states that if a person accused with an offence may claim that he or she is uninformed of the fact, ignorance will be deemed an excuse. Ignorantia can be translated as both ignorance and mistake, and the two concepts are interchangeable. According to this maxim, when a person is unaware of the existence of a significant truth or commits illegal conduct for which he/she could not anticipate or intend the unlawful consequences, he/she is immune from criminal and civil liability.

There are many different sorts of law, such as family law, civil law, criminal law, contract law, and so on. It is commonly known that anyone who disobeys any of these laws will be held accountable. The maxim ignorantia juris non excusat explains this principle. It is a Latin maxim that states that ignorance of the law, lack of understanding, or legal error regarding legal requirements is not an excuse, and so liability arises in such instances. Ignorance of the law refers to a person’s lack of knowledge of the laws that he or she is required to know, regardless of whether or not they are complete. These errors might be of two types: they can be errors in Indian laws or errors in foreign laws. If the mistake is of Indian laws, then the ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. R v. Tolson (1889)

In this case, the appellant married in September 1880, and her husband went missing shortly after. He was said to be on a ship and had gone missing. She married again after seven years, assuming her spouse was dead, but her husband turned up and accused her of bigamy. It was determined that she was not guilty, and this was a factual error, as her husband was presumed to be deceased. 

“Despite the lack of terms like “knowingly committing bigamy” or “deliberately committing bigamy,” which would have excused her, the appeal court stated that Ms. Tolson was protected in this scenario by an old common law norm. The court found that a “honest and reasonable belief” in the existence of circumstances that, if true, would render the accused’s actions innocent was a valid defence.”

  1. Ashok Kumar Sharma v. State of Rajasthan (2013)

The issue that appeared before the Supreme Court of India in the 2013 case of Ashok Kumar Sharma v. State of Rajasthan (2013) was whether the empowered officer, acting under Section 50 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) is legally obliged to apprise the accused of his right to be searched before a Gazetted Officer or a Magistrate and whether such a procedure is mandatory under the provisions of the Act. 

“In this regard, we can consider the general principle “ignorantia juris non excusat” and if, in such a case, the accused could claim ignorance of the method outlined in Section 50 of the NDPS Act. Because a person is supposed to know the law, ignorance does not generally provide a defence under criminal law. Unquestionably, ignorance of the law occurs in reality, even if it is true, though as a general proposition, it is true that knowledge of law must be imputed to every person.”

Injuria sine damno

Literal meaning

Injuria sine damno refers to the cases of infringement of an absolute private right without any actual loss or damage. Put simply, injury suffered without any sign of damage. 

Interpretation of Injuria sine damno

Injuria sine damno is an infringement of a legitimate right that does not result in any mischief, misfortune or harm to the offended party, and whenever a lawful right encroaches, the person who owns the right is qualified to bring an action. Each individual has an unalienable right to their property, to their invulnerability, and to their freedom, and any infringement on this right is serious. An individual whose lawful right has been infringed upon has a reason for action, with the goal of bringing the reason for action even if the lawful right has been infringed upon on purpose. 

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Ravi Yashvant Bhoir v. District Collector, Raigad (2012)

In the case of Ravi Yashvant Bhoir v. District Collector, Raigad (2012), that appeared before the Supreme Court of India, concerned the action taken against the appellant (Ravi Yashvant Bhoir), an elected as member of Uran Municipal Council under Section 55 B of the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act, 1965.

“A legal right is a claim of entitlement based on the law. It is, in fact, a right granted to a person by the rule of law. As a result, a person who has been injured legally can only challenge the act or omission. There may be some harm or loss that is not unjust in the eyes of the law since it does not result in injury to the complainant’s legal right or legally protected interest, but this type of harm is known as damnum sine injuria. The complaint must show that he has been denied or deprived of a legal right, as well as that he has suffered harm to any legally protected interest. He cannot be heard as a party in a list if he does not have a legal peg for a justiciable claim to cling on to. A fictitious or sentimental grievance may not be sufficient to give the individual locus standi to sue. There must be an injury, or a legal grievance that can be understood, rather than a claim with no justification, known as a stat pro ratione voluntas.”

  1. Bhim Singh v. State of Jammu & Kashmir (1985)

In the case of Bhim Singh v. Province of Jammu and Kashmir (1985), Mr. Bhim Singh, an MLA from Jammu and Kashmir, was apprehended and held in police custody, which prevented him from attending meetings of the authoritative bodies. However, the person to whom he needed to cast a ballot won, and his right to vote was taken away. The case involves an invasion of individual liberty in which the police get remand of the arrested individual but fail to bring him before the judge within the required time frame. Under Articles 21 and 22 of the Indian Constitution, there was a flagrant violation of privileges.

“It was decided that there was a capture with a devilish and malevolent intent, and the offended party was entitled to remuneration of Rs. 50,000 because an individual from the administrative gathering was kidnapped while en route to the authoritative gathering, making it difficult to attend the looming gathering meeting. In the case of Injuria Sine Damnum, the court has the authority to compensate the victim by awarding reasonable monetary compensation.”

Lex fori

Literal meaning

Lex fori signifies the law of the court in which a proceeding is brought.

Interpretation of Lex fori

Lex fori refers to the choice of law. It specifies that the law of the jurisdiction or venue in which a legal action is filed applies if relevant. The law of the forum, or lex fori theory, is a method of addressing the problem of characterisation. The notion of characterization governs the issue of legal disagreement. The notion of characterization enables a court to determine which law will apply in a given situation. It will be difficult to apply the proper conflict of law rule until and unless the same is resolved. According to the theory, a particular issue should be classified in accordance with both the applicable domestic laws and the foreign norms of law in accordance with their nearest and closest domestic law.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Ogden v. Ogden (1907)

In England, a French man (defendant) married an English woman (plaintiff). He did not, however, acquire his parents’ consent before marriage. According to French law, there is a rule which requires parental consent to marriage. As a result, this marriage was annulled by a French Court decision, based on the fact that the parent’s consent, as needed by French law, had not been acquired. After that, the defendant married a Frenchwoman in France. Later, the plaintiff filed a suit in England seeking to dissolve her marriage to the defendant due to his adultery and abandonment.

“After analysing the French requirement as a question of forum, the English Court adopted the English conflict rule, stating that the venue of marriage celebration is England. As a result, the Court declared the French law requiring parental consent to be unconstitutional and maintained the validity of marriage. However, when determining the validity of the same marriage, a French court used the French conflict rule. The Court pronounced the marriage null and void while outlining the requirement for parental authorization to marry. It’s up to the lex loci contractus to win and therefore the defendant’s subsequent marriage was bigamous and must be cancelled.”

  1. Re Berchtold (1922)

In the present case, a Hungarian man died and left behind a will that dealt with his English estate. He devised and gave all of his freehold estate, all of his other real estate, and all of his personal estate in the United Kingdom to his trustees on trust for sale and conversion in that will. He was domiciled in Hungary, and thus, under English intestacy laws governing movable property, the law of domicile, that is Hungary, would apply. 

“In determining movable and immovable property, the court elected to apply the lex situs rule, treating the freehold as money. When a person domiciled in another country dies intestate and leaves an interest in the proceeds of sale of English freeholds held in trust but not yet sold, that interest is immovable, and the succession to it is governed by the lex situs.”

Lis pendens

Literal meaning

Lis pendens, literally means ‘pending litigation’ or ‘pending suit’. It is derived from the maxim “Pendente lite nihil innovature,” which states that nothing new must be introduced while litigation or suit is pending.

Interpretation of Lis pendens

The doctrine of Lis pendens states that when there is current litigation on the title or any rights arising directly from it regarding immovable property, the transfer of property is restricted. The litigation begins when a complaint is filed or when procedures in the relevant court begin, and it will end when the Court issues an order.

This doctrine is necessary because it prevents the transfer of title to any disputed property without the consent of the court, otherwise, endless litigation will ensue, and it will be impossible to bring a lawsuit to a successful conclusion if alienations are allowed to prevail and covenants are not imposed. The ‘Transferee pendente lite’ is bound by the verdict in the same way as they would be if they were a party to the claim, and the transfer will be made contingent on the outcome of the pending lawsuit.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Koyalee v. Rajasthan District (2008)

The land in dispute was originally registered in the name of the Plaintiff’s spouse in the matter of Koyalee v. Rajasthan District (2008). Following his death, his brother, knowing that the deceased wife was still alive and the sole legal heir, filed a lawsuit to obtain the Khatedari rights, and the wife was forced to contest that she was the sole legal heir of the recorded Khatedar. The brother then proceeded to transfer the land notwithstanding the current case since he did so without first getting authorization from the court.

“Thus, from the decisions referred, it is clear that during the pendency of the suit, a transfer or alienation of property without the leave of the court is hit by the doctrine of lis pendens as envisaged under Section 52 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 and the purchaser is bound by the decree between the original litigating party and subsequent purchaser during pendency is neither a necessary nor proper party.”

  1. Ashok Kumar v. Govindammal and Anr (2010)

The case of Ashok Kumar v. Govindammal and Anr (2010) explains the Court’s positions on the pendente lite-transfers issue. In this case, the Supreme Court of India confirmed that a pendente lite cannot be transferred for a property whose title is in dispute.

“Even though the sale by the second respondent in favour of appellant on 11.4.1990 was barred by the theory of lis pendens, we believe the claim should not have been dismissed in its entirety. Because she was found not to be the exclusive owner in the pending partition matter, the second respondent cannot escape the sale she made. As a result, instead of dismissing the appellant’s claim, the lower courts should have decreed it in part, based on the portion of the suit property that fell to the share of the second respondent.”

Nemo debet bis vexari pro eadem causa

Literal meaning

The literal meaning of the maxim Nemo debet bis vexari pro eadem causa is that nobody should be vexed for the same act twice. This is a Latin proverb that reflects what is known as the rule against double jeopardy in criminal law, i.e. the idea that a person should not be “vexed” or forced to answer for oneself by being tried or punished more than once for the same accusation.

Interpretation of Nemo debet bis vexari pro eadem causa

In general, the principle has two rules that are widely used in jurisprudence. First and foremost, 

  1. The first trial’s verdict should be legal. 
  2. Second, it isn’t applicable if fresh evidence is discovered after the initial trial or if the original verdict was gained through fraud. 

Most recent interpretations of ‘double jeopardy’ incorporate this Latin maxim. Article 20 (2) of the Indian Constitution, for example, states that “no person shall be prosecuted and punished more than once for the same conduct.” This is a situation in which you are in double jeopardy. When an accused individual is tried, he or she faces the risk of being found guilty.

In a broad sense, the maxim also considers the interests of society and the State. Judicial rulings must be acknowledged as correct, otherwise, if a suit could be brought indefinitely for the same cause of action, the existing court would be unable to deal with the ever-increasing number of suits. Endless content or permanent litigation disrupts society’s tranquillity and leads to chaos and uncertainty. As per Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, “no court shall try any suit or issue in which the matter directly and substantially in issue has been directly and substantially in issue in a previous suit between the same parties, or between parties under whom they or any of them claim, litigating under the same title, in a court competent to try such subsequent suit or the suit in which such issue has been subsequently raised, and has been heard and finally decided.”

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Duchess of Kingstone case (1776)

In this case, Elizabeth Chudleigh, Dowager Duchess of Kingston, Countess of Bristol, was tried and found guilty of bigamy in the House of Lords in 1776.

“These two deductions seem to follow as generally true from the variety of cases relating to judgments being given in evidence in civil suits: first, that a judgement of a court of concurrent jurisdiction directly speaking on the point is, as a plea, a bar, or as evidence, conclusive between the same parties on the same matter, directly in question in another court. 

  1. M/S. Deepak Grit Udyog And Others v. State of Haryana And Others (1995)

The petition was a futile attempt by the wealthy to enlist the help of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in order to sacrifice the human health and welfare of thousands of people whose health, safety, and lives have been repeatedly jeopardised by the petitioners (M/S. Deepak Grit Udyog and Others) and others. 

“The facts outlined above led us to the conclusion that the present writ petition is precluded by the concept of res judicata. The aforementioned principle has been recognized as being based on equity, fairness, and good conscience, and is designed to provide conclusiveness of decisions as to the matters decided in any later litigation between the same parties. The principle of res judicata is based in part on the Roman jurisprudence maxim interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium. It concerns the State that lawsuits come to an end — and partly on the maxim nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa — no man should be vexed twice for the same cause. In the absence of such a regulation, there is a good chance that there will be a lot of litigation, with no end in sight, and people’s rights will be entangled in endless ambiguity, with a lot of injustice done under the guise of the law.”

Nova constitutio futuris formam imponere debet, non praeteritis

Literal meaning

Nova constitutio futuris formam imponere debet, non praeteritis means a new law has to be prospective and not retrospective in its operation. Hence, a new statute of law has to affect the future, not the past.

Interpretation of Nova constitutio futuris formam imponere debet, non praeteritis

The maxim can be best understood by means of an example. For instance, new tax law cannot impose a tax on previous earnings, but it can impose a tax on future earnings. The discussed maxim states that, except in exceptional circumstances, new legislation should be written in such a way that it interferes as little as possible with existing rights. It included a special rule of establishment that applies only when the wording of a parliamentary Act is unclear. As a result, if a retrospective enactment is required, it must be interpreted.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Amireddi Raja Gopala Rao v. Amireddi Sitharamamma (1965)

The issue that appeared before the Supreme Court of India while it was deciding on the case of Amireddi Raja Gopala Rao v. Amireddi Sitharamamma (1965), was whether a child born out of a Brahmin woman and a Sudra father will be affected by the Hindu Adoption and  Maintenance  Act, 1956. It was held that the child was entitled to maintenance under the 1965 Act.

“However, it is assumed that the legislature does not aim to stifle the trend toward the retroactive application of some statutes. New statutes are typically understood to apply only to events or facts that arise after their enactment. It is also established that no statute may be deemed to have retroactive effect unless such enactment appears very clearly in the terms of the acts or emerges by necessary and distinct inference.”

  1. Reid v. Reid (1989)

In the present case, the couple had four children and had been married for 19 years. They had marital problems, went through fruitless counselling, and the wife left the marital house. The wife filed for divorce two months later, claiming constructive desertion. The lower court granted the parties a no-fault divorce and spousal support to the wife. The husband appealed the commissioner’s recommendation that the husband and wife be refused a divorce on fault grounds, that a no-fault divorce decree be recorded, and that the husband pay child and spousal maintenance, a monetary award, as well as the wife’s expenses and attorney’s fees.

“As a logical corollary of the general rule that retrospective operation is not taken to be intended unless it is manifested by express words or necessary implication, there is a subordinate rule that a statute or a section of it may not be construed to have a larger retrospective operation than its language permits.”

Nemo tenetur accusare se ipsum nisi coram deo

Literal meaning

The literal meaning of the maxim Nemo tenetur accusare se ipsum nisi coram deo is that no man is obliged to accuse himself except before God. This maxim is old and is used in modern times as well. This maxim is interpreted by many jurists in many cases.

Interpretation of Nemo tenetur accusare se ipsum nisi coram deo

This is a maxim that involves banning mandatory self-incrimination. 

  1. ‘Nemo’ signifies ‘no’ 
  2. ‘Tenere’ meaning holds,
  3. ‘Ipse’ meaning is him/her/its-self, 
  4. ‘Accusare’ means accuse/indict. 

Similar phrases include: 

  1. Nemo tenetur armare adversarium contra se (no one is bound to arm an opponent against himself): meaning that a defendant is not obligated to in any way assist the prosecutor to his own detriment.
  2. Nemo teneture dere instrumenta contra se (no one is bound to produce documents against himself): meaning that a defendant is not obligated to provide materials to be used against himself (this is true in Roman law and has survived in modern criminal law, but no longer applies in modern civil law).
  3. Nemo tenere pro dere se ipsum (no one is bound to betray himself): meaning that a defendant is not obligated to testify against himself.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Miranda v. Arizona (1966)

Miranda was apprehended at his house and escorted to a police station, where the complaining witness identified him. He was then questioned for two hours by two police officers, culminating in a signed, written confession. The jury saw the oral and written admissions during the trial. Miranda was convicted of kidnapping and rape and sentenced to 20-30 years in jail on each charge. Miranda’s constitutional rights were not violated in getting the confession, according to the Supreme Court of Arizona on appeal.

“The maxim nemo tenetur se ipsum accusare arose from a protest against the inquisitorial and manifestly unjust methods of interrogating accused persons, which had long prevailed in the continental system, and [were] not uncommon even in England until the Stuarts were expelled from the British throne in 1688, and additional barriers for the protection of the people against the exercise of arbitrary power were erected. While prisoner admissions or confessions have always ranked high on the scale of incriminating evidence when made voluntarily and freely, if an accused person is asked to explain his apparent connection to a crime under investigation, the ease with which the questions are asked may take on an inquisitorial tone.”

  1. Selvi & Ors v. State Of Karnataka & Anr (2010)

The legal question that appeared before the Supreme Court of India in this present case in a batch of criminal appeals related to the involuntary administration of certain scientific techniques, namely narco analysis, polygraph examination, and the Brain Electrical Activation Profile (BEAP) test for the purpose of improving investigation efforts in criminal cases.

“The maxim nemo tenetur seipsum accusare arose from a protest against the inquisitorial and manifestly unjust methods of interrogating accused persons that had long prevailed in the continental system, and were not uncommon even in England until the Stuarts were expelled from the British throne in 1688, and additional barriers were erected to protect the people against the exercise of arbitrary power.”

Prior tempore potior iure / lex posterior

Literal meaning

The literal meaning of the legal maxim, Prior tempore potior iure, is that it is a legal principle that older laws take precedence over newer ones. Another name for this principle is lex posterior.

Interpretation of Prior tempore potior iure / lex posterior

This legal maxim can be interpreted as he who is first in time, is stronger in a claim. A legal principle is that older laws take precedence over newer ones.

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Pick ‘n Pay Retailers (Pty) Ltd and Others v. Eayrs No and Others (2011)

The present case of Pick ‘n Pay Retailers (Pty) Ltd and Others v. Eayrs No and Others (2011) concerned a dispute between the holder of a right of pre-emption and the purchaser of shares in and claims against a company.

“The right to keep the right of pre-emption in existence beyond 30 days had thus, in my opinion, not vested at the time the Sale of Shares Agreement was concluded on 22 April 2010, and accordingly, on the application of the rule qui prior est tempore potior est jure, the rights acquired by the [purchaser] in respect of the extended period are of greater force than those acquired later by the [franchisor].”

Pacta sunt servanda

Literal meaning 

Pacta sunt servanda is a Latin term that signifies that agreements must be kept. It can be found in both domestic and international law. It means that under international law, every treaty is binding on the parties and must be carried out in good faith. A true intention to carry out responsibilities without malice is referred to as good faith. The parties to this treaty must do everything in their power to keep their commitments and fulfil their duties.

Interpretation of Pacta sunt servanda

States are asked to refrain from doing anything that would jeopardise the treaty’s result, according to Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 1969. This is subject to the condition that it has signed and approved the treaty in question. This is until it has made its intentions clear that it does not want to be a party to the treaty. This is also contingent on its inclusion into the treaty not being unnecessarily postponed. As a result, if the treaty does not violate a basic law, the countries must follow the treaty’s requirements, even if they are not enforceable under their domestic laws. 

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs

  1. Nuclear Test Case, Aust v. France (1973)

On May 9, 1973, Australia and New Zealand each filed a lawsuit against France over nuclear weapons tests that France planned to conduct in the South Pacific region’s atmosphere. France declared that it did not attend the public sessions or file any pleadings because it believed the Court lacked jurisdiction. On the request of Australia and New Zealand, the Court issued two orders on June 22, 1973, indicating temporary measures, including that France should avoid nuclear tests that result in radioactive fallout on Australian or New Zealand territory until its judgment. Australia and New Zealand were not satisfied with the public statement as nothing stopped France from changing its minds and continuing atmospheric nuclear testing. The International Court of Justice denied their second appeal saying that the French declaration has already achieved what Australia wanted, that is an end to nuclear testing.

“The Court used the doctrine of Pacta Sunt Servanda to determine the trustworthiness of the French statement (i.e Promises must be kept). Trust is fundamental in international cooperation, particularly in an age when cooperation in a variety of disciplines is becoming increasingly important. As a result, interested States may take notice of unilateral pronouncements and repose their trust in them, and they have the right to demand that the obligation so formed be respected.”

  1. All Pakistan CNG Association v. Pakistan State Oil Company Ltd. (2015)

In the present case, the parties entered into CNG Licence Agreements and as per Clause 17 of the said agreement, APCNGA referred the dispute to the Arbitrator, duly appointed with consent of the parties, who after hearing the objections of the parties and affording a proper opportunity of adducing their evidence finally announced the award, after which petitioner filed a petition for making the same as the rule of the Court, whereas, respondents being aggrieved of the said award filed Arbitration Petition No. 20/2010 for setting aside of the same.

“Pacta sunt servanda indicates that agreements must be honoured if private contract clauses are the governing law between parties and should be upheld to the greatest extent possible. Every effort must be taken to maintain the contract’s sanctity.”

Vigilantibus non dormientibus iura subveniunt

Literal meaning 

This legal maxim means that law aids those who are alert about their rights rather than those who are unaware. It implies that individuals who are irresponsible with their rights will not be helped by the law. To claim that one is exercising their right, one must also be aware of those rights. After the statutory term, a person who chooses to keep silent throughout the statutory period will be unable to claim enforcement of their rights.

Interpretation of Vigilantibus non dormientibus iura subveniunt

The Limitation Act, 1963 is the clearest manifestation of this concept. Essentially, if an offence is believed to have been committed, the person who has been aggrieved must take legal action within a ‘prescribed period,’ as defined by the Limitation Act, 1963. Otherwise, the complaint may be dismissed. In legal parlance, people who assert a legal right must be cautious in exerting it. The opposite is also true, people who claim they have been wronged should file their claims as soon as possible. For example, if X has been exposed to mistreatment by her husband and family because of dowry, she cannot seek redress after seven years of marriage. 

Judicial decisions based on this legal maxim and relevant paragraphs 

  1. Contract Forwarding (Pty) Ltd v. Chesterfin (Pty) Ltd and Others (2002)

In light of the working of a concursus creditorum, which crystallises the insolvent’s position by preventing a creditor from advancing its own position to the detriment of other creditors, the issue in the present case concerns the effect of a supervening liquidation on a provisional order permitting a creditor to perfect a general notarial bond over movables.

“If I may use some Latin, vigilantibus non dormientibus iura subveniunt, which means that the rules benefit those who are vigilant rather than those who sleep. (Both the concepts are more reliable guides to the correct conclusion than the Court below’s ‘fair and equitable’ principle.) The fact that the vigilant person perfects his rights first is ‘fortunate,’ but this does not render the deed unjust or inequitable.)”


Many distinct legal maxims are employed on a regular basis in various court processes and other sectors. As a result, a legal maxim is defined as a statement that clarifies a legal principle, proposition, or notion. There are hundreds of legal maxims that are adopted with respect to the circumstances they are to be applied in. Although this article does not mention all the legal maxims that are existing presently, it intends to cover the significant and often used ones.


Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals, and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here