In order to be successful in an action for tort, the plaintiff has to prove that there has been a legal damage caused to him. In other words he has to prove that there was a wrongful act or omission causing breach of legal duty or violation of legal right vested in the plaintiff. Unless, there has been violation of a legal right, no action can be taken in law of torts even though the plaintiff has suffered monetary and other types of loss. This proposition is expressed by the two maxims Damnum sine injuria and Injuria sine damno.
Injuria Sine damno
In the above maxim Injuria means violation of legal right vested in plaintiff by law, sine means without and damno means harm, loss or damage in respect of money, comfort, health or the like. So, Injuria sine damno means violation of legal right without causing any harm, loss or damage to the plaintiff. Thus when there has been injuria or violation of legal right and the same has not coupled with the damnum or harm to the plaintiff, the plaintiff can still go to the court of law because no violation of legal right should go undressed. For instance if someone trespass my house, he infringes my legal right and I can bring an action against him in the court even if no damage, loss or harm has been caused as a result of such trespass. These torts are actionable per se i.e actionable without the proof of any damage or loss. In such cases, there is no need to prove that plaintiff has suffered any harm as a consequence of such act, the only thing that needs to be proves is that the legal right of the plaintiff has been violated.
Ashby V White is the leading example explaining this maxim. In this case, the plaintiff who was a qualified voter at a Parliamentary election, was denied to caste his vote by an election officer i.e defendant. No loss was suffered as the candidate for whom the plaintiff wanted to vote won the election. It was held that the defendant is liable as the plaintiff’s legal right i.e right to vote was infringed. Similarly,
In Bhim Singh V State of Jammu and Kashmir an MLA of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was wrongfully arrested by the police when he was going to attend the Assembly session. In addition, he was not produce before the magistrate within the requisite period prescribed in law. As a result, he was deprived of his constitutional right of attending the Assembly session. The fundamental right of personal life and liberty prescribed by Article 21 was also violated. The defendants were held liable and as a consequential relief Rs 50,000 were awarded to him.
In Marzetti V Williams, the plaintiff who has a bank account in the defendant’s bank was not allowed to withdraw money although his account has enough money without giving any valid reason. In an action by the plaintiff for damages, it was held that the defendant is liable as the plaintiff’s legal right is violated, it does not matter if any actual loss or damage was sustained by the plaintiff as a result of defendant’s wrongful act.
In Ashrafilal V Municipal Corporation of Agra, the plaintiff’s name was deleted from the voters list by the concerned authorities. As a result plaintiff was not able to exercise his vote. In an action for damages by the plaintiff, it was held that the Municipal Corporation of Agra was liable as the plaintiff’s legal right i.e right to vote was infringed and the compensation was granted to the plaintiff.
Damnum sine Injuria
In the above maxim Damnum means substantial harm, loss or damage in respect of money, comfort, health or the like, sine means without and injuria means violation of legal right. So, it means damage which is not coupled with any infringement of plaintiff’s right. Causing of damage to another person is not actionable in law unless there is also violation of legal right of the plaintiff So, when there is no violation of legal right, no action can lie in a court of law even though the defendant’s act has caused some losss, damage or harm to the plaintiff. The reason for the same is that if interference in the rights of another person is not unlawful but a necessary condequence of the exercise of his own right by the defendant, no action should lie. For instance, if I’m a owner of a shop and some other person opns a shop in front of my shop due to which I suffer losses I can’t go to the court suing him and asking compensation on the plea that I suffer losses due to the defendant. In the given case though the defendant had caused me some damage or loss but my legal right isn’t infringed, so I can’t bring an action against him in court.
In Gloucester Grammar School case, the defendant i.e the headmaster set up a rival school near the plaintiff’s school. Because of the competition the plaintiff has to reduce the fess of school from 40 pence to 12 pence per quarter and suffered huge monetary loss. In an action by the plaintiff for the damages, the court held that the defendant was not liable and the plaintiff has no remedy for the loss suffered by him as there was no violation of legal right of plaintiff.
In Acton V Blundell, the defendants in carrying on mining operations on his field ended up draining the water from the land of plaintiff through which the water flowed in a subterraneous course to his well. In an action for damages by the plaintiff, it was held that the defendant was not liable and need not to pay any damages to plaintiff as defendant was exercising his private right i.e right to enjoy property.
In Chesmore V Richards, the defendants for the past 60 years was using water for his mill from a stream which was fed by rainfall. The defendant sunk a well on his own land and pumped large quantity of water to supply water to the other inhabitants. As a result, the quantity of water in the stream reduced and the mill was closed due to non availability of water. In an action for damages by the plaintiff, it was held that the defendant was not liable even though the plaintiff suffered monetary loss because defendant’s actions didn’t result in any infringement of legal right of the plaintiff.
In Day V Brownring, the name of plaintiff’s house was “Ashford Lodge” while the name of the defendant’s house was “Ashford Villa” and their houses were known by these names for a very long time. Subsequently, the defendant changed the name of his house to that of Plaintiff’s house. As a result. The plaintiff suffered too much inconvenience and annoyance. Also the material value of his house diminished. In an action by the plaintiff for damages, it was held that the defendant was nor liable as no legal right of the plaintiff was violated.
In Bradford Corporation(Mayor of) V Pickles Corporation of Bradford was supplying water from its well. Defendant owned adjoining land to the land from where the Bradford Corporation was supplying water and had dug up a well. He approached the Mayor of the Bradford Corporation to sell his land but the negotiations failed. Then, the defendant sank a shaft in his own land which diminished and discoloured the water flowing to the plaintiff’s land. This had cause monetary loss to the corporation. The plaintiffs also alleged that the sole purpose of the same was to cause damage to plaintiff as they did not buy defendant’s land at a high price. In an action by the plaintiff for injunction and damages, it was held that the defendant was not liable as he was exercising his own right i.e right to enjoy property and it had not violated any legal right of plaintiff.
Injuria sine damnum means that even if an act doesn’t causes us any harm, loss or damage we can still bring an action in court if that act infringes our legal right. For instance if during election I go to caste my vote and an election officer refuses to take my vote without any valid reason. Later the candidate for which I wanted to vote wins the election. Even though no harm or loss has been incurred in this case still I can bring an action against the election officer as right to vote is my legal right and by refusing to take my vote he infringes it. It doesn’t matter whether as a result of such act a loss or harm is caused or not. Damnum sine injuria on the other hand states that even if by a person’s act we suffer any damage, harm or loss, we can’t bring an action against him in court unless our legal right have been infringed by such act. For instance if a person opens a school in front of mine and because of that many students from my school took admission in his school and as a result I inccur huge losses or damages, I can’t bring an action against him even he delebarately does it to cause me harm, because by setting up of a school he doesnt’t violate any of my legal rights. So, no remedy can be granted in such cases whicch doesn’t involve infringement of legal right of an individual.