NULLUS COMMODUM CAPERE POTEST DE INJURIA SUA PROPRIA

Nullus commodum capere potest de injuria sua propria is a Latin maxim, fairly translating to mean that no one can make gains from their own wrongs. Its relevance is primarily foundin Contract Law —reiterating that when there is a contractual obligation between two parties; neither party may derive an advantage from its own unlawful acts.

It is derived from the good faith arrangement that parties within a contract often undertake. By this arrangement, parties mutually agree upon the fact that in a scenario where, due to an unlawful act on the part of one party, the other party is not able to fulfil its contractual duty to the former, the former may not take advantage of the non-performance condition. They agree to not deceive each other and operate with ‘clean hands’ and in complete confidence and cooperation with each other.

In India, where the common law system prevails, such a provision is primarily seen in contracts such as partnership agreements and other agreements prescribing a fiduciary duty such as insurance contracts.

In the judgment for the case of Ashok Kapil vs. Sana Ullah, the Supreme Court applied the maxim, nullus commodumcapere potest de injuria sua propria stating it to be “one of the salient tenets of equity” and that “hence, in the normal course, the respondent cannot secure the assistance of a court of law while enjoying the fruit of its own wrong”.

Another application of the maxim is implemented when courtsexercise its equitable jurisdiction by the law. In the case of A. P. State Financial Corporation v. GAR Re-rolling AIR 1994 SC 2151 and State of Maharashtra v. Prabhu 1994 2 SCC 481, the Court observed that “a writ court, while exercising its equitable jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, should not act to prevent perpetration of a legal fraud and thecourts are obliged to do justice by promotion of good faith. Equity is, also, known to prevent the law from crafty evasions and subtleties invented to evade the law.”

To sum up, nullus commodum capere potest de injuria sua propria is a maxim fairly used by courts in matters of application of their equitable jurisdiction and to prevent deceptive practices prevalent in the ambit of cases involving commercial contracts.

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