De minimus non curat lex – Acts causing slight harm

Home Forums Act Causing Slight Harm – Not an Offence? De minimus non curat lex – Acts causing slight harm

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    • #911
      Vinisha Bhavnani

      The law does not take trifling matters into account. Nothing is to be wrong if a person of ordinary temper and rationale would not complain about. The Latin term for this concept is De minimus non curat lex. The judiciary applies this term to trivial matters that do not require judicial scrutiny. For instance: If A is driving along a dusty road and a little dust is thrown on a passerby B, A would not be liable for damage caused to B. The court would apply the principle of De minimus non curat lex.

      This maxim is also recognised in Sec. 95 of the Indian Penal Code which states that nothing is an offence that causes slight harm and that a person of ordinary temper would not complain about.
      This principle of common law is to highlight the fact that judiciary will not take notice of extremely minor violations of the law, taking place in peoples day to day lives. The law does not encourage litigants to bring legal action where there is negligible damage, as it would only waste the time and resources of the judiciary.
      In the case of Coward v. Bradley, a bystander B touched C’s arm, a fireman, to attract his attention to another part of the building where the fire was raging. On a suit filed by C against B for battery, the court held that the bystander was not liable for the tort, and that it amounted to trivial act before the court.

      However there are a few cases where the maxim was not applied by the court. In the case of Helford V. Bailey, B casts and draws a net in water where H has an exclusive right of fishing. It was held that whether any fish was caught or not, B had committed a tort against H.
      Thus, some injuries merit so little consideration that no suit can be filed in such cases. This defence, does not mean that the act is not justified, it merely means that there will be no punishment for such an act because of it’s frivolous and trivial nature.

    • #1855

      ‘De minimis non curat lex’ the legal maxim in it’s literal sense means the law does not entertain the trail of trifle matters. The judge may refuse to perform a trail in the court of law if it is an extremely minor transgression of law. The maxim is backed by Section 95 of the I.P.C it states that it is intended to prevent penalisation of negligible wrongs. For example, a person cannot file a case of battery against another person if he/she was pressed or pushed while getting into a railway compartment.

      In the case of Veeda Menezes v/s Yusuf Khan Hai Ibrahim Khan, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, because a slight scratch on the elbow by the respondent would constitute only a slight harm, since if a person of ordinary temper and sense would have been placed in the same circumstances as the appellant would not have reasonably complained of the damage and therefore would not have been entertained
      However, the meaning and essence of this maxim should not be mixed with the fact that the court of law dismisses every trail on the basis of the amount of damage. If the damage is significant and harmful enough caused by the accused then the court of law might instruct minor damages to be paid and may even award punishment.

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