Corpus delicti or Body of crime

Lohitashwa Pratap Singh

Corpus delicti translated to “body of crime” is a term that refers to the principle that a crime must have been proven to have occurred before a person can be convicted of committing that crime. Black’s Law dictionary defines “corpus delicti” as the “fact of a crime having been actually committed”.

The above mentioned maxim is one of the most important concepts in murder investigation. When a person goes missing the police file a missing report and initiates the search proceedings and during that course if the investigators feel that the person was murdered the investigation is done on the evidentiary items including physical, demonstrative and testimonial evidences. In this case the physical evidence is the most important but if due to any reason the physical evidence is not present it is possible to prove that the crime took place if the situational and circumstantial evidences are well detailed.

Many jurisdictions hold as a legal rule that the defendant’s out of court statement is sufficient to prove if the convict is guilty or not beyond reasonable doubts.

In the end just to say there must be palpable harm or injury to rights of other with mens rea (guilty mind) or in alternative an element of negligence so severe as to be called criminal.

Injuria Sine Damno

Sai Manoj Reddy

Injuria Sine Damno is used in law of torts and is related to damages. The meaning of the above maxim is infringement of an absolute private right without any actual loss or damage. Here the actual damage means physical loss in terms of money, comfort, health, etc. This maxim says that in the law of torts the infringement of right is itself considered as damage and there is no need to prove that an actual damage is caused. To make it clear “whenever a person has sustained what the law calls as ‘injury’ he may bring an action without being under the necessity of proving special damage, because the injury itself is taken to imply damage”. We can take many examples regarding this maxim. If a person comes to your home without your permission and  roams all around in your home and leaves your home, here there is no actual damage caused but your private legal right has been infringed. To explain this maxim in terms of application the following case laws will be helpful.

  1. Ashby v. White

In this case the  defendant, the returning officer, wrongfully refused to register a duly tendered vote of  plaintiff, a legally qualified voter, at a parliamentary election and the candidate for whom the vote was tendered was elected, and no loss was suffered by the rejection of the vote. Here the defendant maliciously refused to register the vote of plaintiff. This is considered as legal damage caused to plaintiff as it is infringement of the fundamental rights of a person who has right to vote and is unconstitutional. The court held that the action was allowed on the ground that the violation of plaintiff’s statutory right was an injury for which he must have a remedy and was actionable without proof of pecuniary damage.

  1. Bhim Singh v/s State of Jammu and Kashmir. [AIR 1986 Sc. 494]:

In this case the petitioner was an MLA of Jammu and Kashmir assembly was wrongfully detained by the police while he was going to attend the assembly session. He was not produced before the magistrate within the requisite period. As the consequence of this the member was deprived of his constitutional right to attend the assembly session. There was also violation of fundamental right to personal liberty guaranteed under article 21 of India constitution. In this case the court ordered to pay exemplary damages of Rs. 50,000 to the petitioner.

Thus the maxim ‘ínjuria sine damno’ means that infringement of a legal right will give rise to action irrespective of the fact that no actual loss or damage has taken place.

Ignorantia juris non excusat

Adyasree Prakriti Sivakumar

Ignorantia juris non excusat” is a Latin legal maxim, on literal interpretation, means Ignorance of Law is not an excuse. This is one of the most important and basic concepts any lawyer or legal academician should know. Also, being law students it becomes necessary for us also to know about it.

This term, is derived from the Latin word. The origin of the of the maxim can be found with the philosophies of the Greeks and Romans. These cultures were heavily influenced by customary legal systems. Within such a system, law is learned as a person participates in the culture and customs ornate community. Thus, it is unreasonable to believe a person could have avoided learning them. These rules and customs were also interwoven with ethical and religious dialog and hence, the practice of laws became an involuntarily phenomenal

The ratio for this doctrine is to punish all offenders and not let him escape liability on the grounds that he was unaware of the law. The application of this maxim is more wide in civil cases than criminal cases.

For example, if a person wants to start a business he needs to be aware of the rules and regulations and the procedure involved in doing so. He needs to be aware of the various acts and statues that govern the Labour Laws. Some of them being the payment of wages, safe and secure working conditions and the compulsory establishment of grievance cells for both the employees and customers. If at a later date he is brought before law, he cannot merely deny the claim on the grounds that he was unaware of the law.

It is simple to know for basic things like a murder or killing the defaulter is sure to get punished. Now, the main question that raises here is how is a lay man supposed to be aware for the laws of the land, especially laws relating to environment, property, or ownership? These are not that common concepts that one comes across in our day to day life. Hence, for such concepts the government has a duty to publish the laws on a public platform. A public platform is one where any common man can view the laws of the land. They include, government gazettes or official documents which are available easily for a reasonable price. Also today, in an era where computerisation had become a sole criteria, to save trees, that the legal contents and can be easily downloaded for free. The statues and cases are available for free on many a web sites. Hence, anyone afoul with the law cannot claim that he wasn’t aware of the law.

With increasing crime rates in every aspect of life it becomes necessary to impart legal education not just at the graduation level but also a very basic at the school level. By doing so we are preparing our younger generation to not only become better citizens but also better and civilised individuals.

Ejusdem generis

Mahima Gherani

This commonly used Latin maxim means “of the same kind, class or nature”. Known as a “canon of construction”, it states that while interpretation or construction of a statute the first thing which is done by the court is to assign literal meaning to the statute in question, but in case, there exists any vagueness, then the court goes a step ahead in its interpretation, and try knowing the intent of the legislature in constructing such a statute, which can be inferred and determined from the application of statutory rules out of which one of them is Ejusdem Generis. It is an ancient doctrine, commonly called Lord Tenterden’s Rule. The general expression takes its meaning from the preceding particular expressions. The basis of the principle of Ejusdem Generis is that if the legislature intended general words to be used in unrestricted sense, it would not have bothered to use particular words at all.

This rule of law must be applied cautiously because it implies a departure from the natural meaning of words in order to give them a meaning on a supposed intension of the legislature. The rule must be controlled by the fundamental rule that statutes must be construed so as to carry out the object sought to be accomplished. This term can be further explained by its usage in various case laws and the decisions of the judges.

The Supreme Court in Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board v. Harishanker, has laid down the following five essential elements of this rule:

  • The statute contains an enumeration of specific words
  • The subjects of enumeration constitute a class or category
  • The class or category is not exhausted by the enumeration
  • The general terms follow the enumeration
  • There is no indication of a different legislative intent.

If the legislative purpose of a statute is such that a statutory series should be read Ejusdem Generis, so it be, and the rule is helpful.

In State of Bombay v. Ali Gulshan , Section 6(4)(a) of the  Bombay Land Requisition Act, 1948 was in question wherein the High Court held that the words “any other words” used in the Section should be read Ejusdem Generis with the purpose of the State that accommodation for a member of the foreign consulate staff is a purpose of the Union. This rule was also applied in University of Madras v. Shanta Bai, where in the Madras High Court evolved the principal of Ejusdem Generis i.e of like nature. It means that those authorities are covered under the expression ‘other authorities’ which perform governmental or sovereign functions.

In another landmark case Porwell v. Kempten Park the question was in reference to the Betting Act 1853. The Betting Act 1853 made it an offence to keep a house, office, room or other place for the purposes of betting. The House of Lords had to decide if the statute applied to Tattersall’s enclosure at Kempton Park Racecourse. The court applied the ejusdem generis rule and held that the other items mentioned in the statute related to places indoors whereas Tattersall’s enclosure was outside. There was thus no offence committed. In another old English case of Evans v. Cross, the words ‘other devices’ had to be interpreted in Section 48(9) of the Road Traffic Act, 1930 which defined a ‘traffic sign’ to include ‘all signals, warning sign posts, direction posts, signs or other devices.’ Applying the rule of Ejusdem Generis the Court held that a painted white line on a road could not be called a traffic sign because devices are things and not those that are painted.

This is a rule of language employed by the courts when a situation arises that may not have been foreseen when the statute was being drafted. It will bring within the meaning of the statute things that are of the same class or genus as those mentioned within the statute itself. Thus, if specific items are listed, plus a general term (for example, houses, offices, rooms or other places), the general term of other places will include things only of the same class as the specific list, in this case indoor places.

The doctrine of Ejusdem Generis is only part of a wider principle of construction, namely, that, where reasonably possible, some significance and meaning should be attributed to each and every word and phrase in a written document. That being the object of the doctrine, it is difficult to see what difference it can make whether the word ‘other’ is or is not used, provided-and this is essential-that the examples which have been given are referable to a clearly ascertainable genus.

Ejusdem Generis

Sai Manoj Reddy

The meaning of this maxim is ‘of the same kind’ this maxim is generally used by the courts in deciding or classification of entities or bodies which comes under a specific definition. One of the main applications of the ejusdem generis rule is in the interpretation of statutes. In India ejusdem generis is used often when ambiguity or confusion on the statutes arises. This maxim played a major role in defining the state and the origin of clear and proper definition of state and what are all the other authorities which is mentioned in the article 12 of the Indian constitution. In the case of university of madras v. shanthabai the court used the ejusdem generis rule to clarify whether the university comes under the term state or not?  The court by interpreting the article 12 of the Indian constitution said that as there are state legislature, parliament, and central government mentioned in the article 12, the court held that using the rule of ejusdem generis any authority which tends to come under the term other authorities in the article 12, then either it should be performing the funvtions similar to the functions of the legislature and government or sovereign functions only comes under the term other authorities as stated in the article 12 of the Indian constitution.

We can say that this is the origin from which the court started defining clearly the term other authorities to avoid the ambiguity and confusion on this topic. The case which was mentioned above is dated back in 1954 which is very near to the framing of constitution of India which says us that this legal maxim had a particular significance in the development of law related to fundamental rights in India as the fundamental rights are only actionable against the state and the authorities stated under the article 12 of the Indian constitution.

Now coming to the interpretation of statutes using the rule of ejusdem generis, a statute is generally interpreted as per the intent of legislature but once legislature passes the statute, its interpretation lies in the hand of the judges/courts. There might be some cases where the statute might not be clear and judges might need to interpret the statute as per their need. So, in order to make sure that there is no arbitrariness in the interpretation, many canons of statutory interpretation has been brought forward so as to guide the judges towards the right interpretation. Ejusdem generis is one of those canons of statutory interpretation which is used when a statute contains certain specific words which is followed by a general term. The researcher will be looking into this canon of statutory interpretation in this research paper.This rule of ejusdem generis is not a new rule of construction. It is an ancient doctrine, which was called Lord Tenterden’s Rule. It was used in Archbishop of Canterbury’s Case in 1596, where the Judge laid down this rule of construction. Now, we’ve to realize that every case where the dispute relates to specific genus of words followed by general word does not attract this rule of interpretation. There are certain elements that need to be fulfilled before the judges/courts can use this method of interpretation. There are various conditions ranging for requirement of specific words to legislative intent and these conditions have been properly mentioned in the case of Uttar Pradesh State Electricity Board v. HarishankerHere, the Supreme Court has laid down five different conditions that needs to be fulfilled this rule of construction is used. They are:

  1. The statute contains an enumeration of specific words.
  2. The subjects of enumeration constitute a class or category.
  3. That class or category is not exhausted by the enumeration.
  4. The general terms follow the enumeration.

There is no indication of a different legislative intent.

Amicus Curiae

Balakumar Rajendran

Amicus Curiae is a Legal phrase derived from Latin which means “friend of the court”. It refers to someone, not a party to a case, who volunteers to offer information on a point of law of some other aspect of the case to assist the court in deciding the judgment.

The figure of Amicus Curiae originated from Roman law. Then it was incorporated into English law and it was later extended to common law systems including India.

In any criminal matters if the accused is unrepresented, then an advocate is appointed by the court to defend the accused and argue in favor of him. Amicus Curiae can be appointed by the court in civil matters too; court appoints amicus curiae in public matters also. Majority of the Amicus Curiae who are appointed by the Indian courts are senior advocates, who have much experience in civil/criminal matters. Law academicians can also be appointed as Amicus Curiae. Courts relay on statements of experts to understand the cases effectively. The role of an amicus curiae as stated by Lord Salmon is as follows:

 “I had always understood that the role of an amicus curiae was to help the court by expounding the law impartially, or if one of the parties were unrepresented, by advancing the legal argument on his behalf.[1]

Section 45 in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, talks about the opinions of experts. Amicus don’t have to necessarily be in the legal field. In Siddhapal Kamala Yadav v State of Maharashtra the opinion of the doctors against the accused that Yadav was normal and was not in an unsound mind when he was committing murder was taken by the court as vital evidence and the appeal given by him was thereby dismissed.  Some of the most famous Amicus Curiae in recent times are Shyam Divan in the Odisha chit fund case, Gopal Subramaniam in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple case, Raju Ramachandran in the Kasab case.[2] Delhi High Court suspended both the defence and the prosecution lawyers for driving the witnesses to turn hostile in Court On Its Motion v State on 7 August, 2007. In the said case, Advocate Arvind Nigam was appointed as amicus curiae by the Delhi High Court for securing justice.[3] In State (Delhi Administration) v Pali Ram[4] Delhi High Court appointed a handwriting expert to render justice.

In Novartis v. Union of India & Ors[5] Shamnad Basheer, a professor of Intellectual Property Rights filed an intervention application before the Supreme Court and provided academic assistance to the Court. In 2012, Delhi High Court’s decision on Section 377 was appealed to Supreme Court, 16 teachers from various universities in India filed an intervention to the Supreme Court.[6]

The above instances lead to the fact that the interventions of amicus curiae in many cases have helped the judges to fully & clearly understand the facts of the case and provide the right judgment.

[1] Allen V. Sir Alfred Mc. Alpine & Sons Ltd[2]

[2] 9th paragraph.


[4]1979 AIR 14, 1979 SCR (1) 931

[5] CIVIL APPEAL Nos. 2706-2716 OF 2013


Actori Incumbit Onus Probandi

Balakumar Rajendran

Actori Incumbit Onus Probandi is a legal phrase derived from Latin meaning ‘the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff”. It says that the claimant bears the burden of proof, which has to prove the aspects of their claim. In a civil proceeding, court leads the investigation, but it has to be done by the plaintiff, who is obliged to submit to the court all the proof and evidence he/she has got. Mere filling of a case is not enough for winning a case, but also support It with strong and enough evidences which would convince the jury. In criminal proceedings the burden of proof lies on the prosecutor. The scope and the subject-matter of “burden of proof” could include the issues related to “evidence” as well as “pleadings,” First, necessary provision to that effect are usually incorporated in statutes and rulings of the tribunal .i.e. a person who needs a evidence will first depend upon the statues and the rulings of the courts which relates the subject matter which would envisage a general guideline with regard to pleading or evidence filed by him/her.

The history of this aspect burden of proof goes back into ancient times. In ancient Roman law, this principle of burden of proof expressed itself through different maxims, such as ei qui affirmat non ei qui negat incumbit probation .i.e. this maxim states that the burden of proof is on the person who affirms and not on him who denies and actori incumbit probation .i.e. the claimant caries the burden of proof. “Actori Incumbit Onus Probandi” In Islamic law, as a general rule the burden of proof is on the claimant[1].

Kuthalinga Nadar v D.D.Murugesan Dated 18 October, 2011. In the above mentioned case before the Honorable High Court of Madras, legal maxim “Actori Incumbit Onus Probandi” is used to render judgment. Second appeal is filled by the original plaintiff according to him the suit second item property (7 cents) forms part of the suit first item property. According to the plaintiff, the defendants interfered with the enjoyment of the second suit item (7 cents). The court said that the burden of proof was on the plaintiff to prove that Rama Nadar (Plaintiff’s Vendor’s Vendor) had owned 27 cent of land, So the second appeal was dismissed by the High Court of Madras.

The only one exception to the maxim is when the facts are peculiarly within the other party’s knowledge[2]. But in practice there are many factors which may affect of qualify the application of the general rule.

[1] See, Mojtaba Kazazi.Burden of Poof and Related Issues. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. Pp 55-56.

[2] CJS, op. cit., supra note 22,pp. 181-182.