DE MINIMIS CURAT LEX

Legal maxims are established principles, often resorted to as creative agencies that help manoeuvre Courts across the world in applying the incumbent laws in an impartial manner. As the great scholar Agassiz was said to be able to reconstruct the entire animal from the view of a single bone or scale and jurists sometimes treat one short maxim as containing all the materials necessary to develop a branch of the law, “a complete pocket percept covering the whole subject“. A cardinal principle of jurisprudence till date is to prevent the delay of justice. Therefore, it is expedient that the law should not be concerned with trivial matters, as suggested by the maxim de minimis non curat lex. The maxim means “the law does not concern itself with trifles”. It includes matters that are minimal and so insignificant that a court may overlook them in deciding an issue or case.

Generally, the law discourages parties from initiating legal action where the impact of the wrongdoing is infinitesimal, and it is Section 95 of the IPC that ushers the maxim into Indian criminal jurisprudence. Section 95 was formulated to aid those cases that, though they fall within the parameters of the penal law, are not yet within its spirit and are universally considered innocent. Explicating the scope of Section 95, the Apex Court held that it is intended to prevent the penalisation of offences of a trivial character. It further stated that the parties’ position, the nature of the injury and the intention or knowledge with which the affronting act is done would be key to ascertain whether an act is trivial or not. It also asserted that a sweeping standard could not be established which may be regarded as so slight that a prudent person of ordinary sense would not complain of the harm. It cannot be judged purely by the measure of physical or other injuries.In the landmark case of Coward v. Badly, a building was on fire, and a bystander tugged the arm of a fireman to inform him of another fire that was raging at the other end. The plaintiff filed a suit for battery.

However, the Court held that defendant would not be liable for the tort of battery as this amounts to a trivial act. Where a case of criminal intimidation was alleged, it was held that even though a threat emanated, momentary annoyances would not be treated as offences by virtue of Section 95.

Where the complainant tried to touch the feet of a person and got kicked and abused in the process, the Court opined that the allegations were petty in view of Section 95. However, it is pertinent to note that Section 95 cannot have any manner of application to an offence relating to the modesty of a woman as under no circumstances can it be trivial.This maxim is applied to expedite the litigation process. However, there is no settled law over its mandatory application, and ultimately the discretion of its use rests with the Judge.

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