Wriiten By: Siyabonga Manyisane.

Edited By: Christo Sabu.


In this analysis, I will attempt to provide a clearer understanding with respect to the law of torts. It refers to the law that deals with civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in the imposition of legal liability on the person who commits the tortious act. In a way, the law of torts consists of the merging of all the circumstances in which courts give remedy by way of damages or even delictual claims to a certain extent. With that being said, the law of torts requires an act to be committed or omission on the part of the defendant, which to some extent must lead to the violation of the rights of the plaintiff. The act or omission causing loss or damage to the plaintiff should be of such a nature that a legal remedy would not be denied for the same. Damnum and Damno are legal terms that have been taken from the Latin language, and both mean substantial loss or damage with respect to the money, property, or health of an individual. Injuria is another Latin term that means an infringement of a right protected by law.

Damnum Sine Injuria

Damnum sine Injuria as mentioned above, is a legal maxim that refers to damage without injury.  It is based on the notion of there being no legal right that has been infringed. This means that no action lies in the case of damnum sine injuria. The general rule for this maxim is based on the fact that if one exercises his right within a limited space and without infringing others’ rights, such an exercise will not give rise to an action for tort. Damages, nonetheless, can be in any form, either in the form of harm or loss of suffered in terms of monetary value or comfort.

It is implied by law that there are no remedies for any moral wrongs done unless any legal rights have been infringed, irrespective of whether the act committed by a particular person is intentional or negligent. The court will only grant damages to the plaintiff. This was outlined in the case of Mayor & Co. In this case, the corporation of Bradford filed a suit against the defendant claiming that the act of the defendant resulted in the discontinuing of the underground supply of water in the corporation. Consequently, the plaintiff suffered monetary harm owing to the inadequacy and inefficiency of the water supply to the people living under the jurisdiction of the corporation. The court in this matter held that the defendant was not liable since they had not violated any legal right of the plaintiff. 

The court in cases such as the one mentioned above has made it clear that when legal rights have been infringed, damages have to be awarded, and in cases where no legal right has been infringed, no remedies will be available for the same. Thus, it can be said that an act that is lawfully done without negligence and which results in such damages doesn’t result in any injury.

Injuria Sine Damnum

Injuria sine damnum is a violation of a legal right without causing any harm, loss, or damage to the plaintiff, and whenever any legal right is infringed, the person in whom the right is vested is entitled to bring an action. Every person has an absolute right to his property and to the immunity of his personal liberty, and infringement of this right is actionable. A person against whom the legal right has been infringed has a cause of action such that even a violation of any legal right knowingly brings the cause of action. The law even gives this liberty to a person merely under a threat of infringement of a legal right even without the injury being completed. The person whose right has been threatened can bring a suit under the provisions of the Specific Relief Act for declaration and injunction. For instance, if a person is wrongfully detained against his will, he can claim substantial damages for wrongful imprisonment even if no consequential loss was suffered prior to the detention. Injuria sine Damnum is even applicable in the cases of trespass, take, for instance, the case of Sain Das vs Ujagar Singh of 1940. The principle of injuria sine damnum applies to an immovable property when there has been an unjustifiable trespassing incident on the property of another.

 The Differences between Damnum Sine Injuria & Injuria Sine Damnum

Damnum sine Injuria refers to the damages suffered by the plaintiff, where no actual damage is being caused to the legal rights as there is no violation of it. It is the loss suffered without the infringement of any legal right hence creating no cause of action. In such cases, no compensation in the form of damages is awarded by the court. This maxim is for the moral wrongs which have no action in the eyes of the law. The principle of this maxim is that a person acts in such a manner within reasonable limits, which does not constitute a valid ground of action under tort law merely because it causes damages to other people. In this, the plaintiff suffers a loss but has suffered no legal injury. Damages without injury are not actionable.

Injuria Sine damnum is the legal injury caused to the plaintiff without resulting in any physical injury. It is an infringement of a legal right where even if no loss has been suffered by the plaintiff, it still amounts to an actionable cause. Compensation in the form of damages is awarded by the court in such cases. This maxim is for the legal wrongs which are actionable only if the person’s legal right has been violated. The principle of this maxim is that whenever there is an invasion of a legal right, it creates a cause of action, and the person on whom this right is vested is entitled to bring an action. In this, the plaintiff suffers a legal injury, and it doesn’t matter if they have suffered any loss on that account. This is actionable since there is a violation of a legal right.

In the following case of Mogul steamship Co ltd vs McGregor[1], the plaintiff was an independent shipowner who used to send his cargo port to obtain cargo from China to England. An association of four ship owners, also the defendants in the following case, offered a special concession to customers to oust their rival, the plaintiff in this case. The plaintiff under these circumstances suffered loss and sued all four of them for compensation on account of the losses he suffered. Since the general principle of Damnum Sine Injuria expresses that if one exercises his common or ordinary rights within reasonable limits and without infringing other’s legal right, such an exercise does not give rise to an action in tort in favour of that other person. Thus, though morally wrong, there are no legal obligations for the acts of the defendants. This case typically concerns the economic tort of conspiracy to injure the rights of the plaintiff. It was held that the combination of workmen and an agreement among them was a lawful act according to the common law and perhaps enforceable inter-se but not indictable. The court of appeal and the House of Lords held that the defendants had done nothing unlawful. The House of Lords observed that the defendants had done so to extend their trade and to increase their profits, although with the intention of injuring the plaintiff.

In this case, it was observed that the damages were done to the plaintiff morally. But looking at it from a legal perspective, no legal injury was done to the plaintiff following the general principle of the maxim damnum sine injuria, which states that no legal remedies are awarded for moral wrongs unless their legal rights have been violated. The plaintiff failed to prove that any legal injury was suffered owing to the acts of the defendants. Hence, due to the absence of any kind of legal injury, the defendants were not liable for any of the damages suffered by the plaintiff since all the actions done by the defendants, even though they were morally wrong, were done lawfully.

In Bhim Singh vs State of Jammu & Kashmir[2]  however, Mr Bhim Singh, an MLA of Jammu & Kashmir, was arrested & detained in police custody and was deliberately prevented from attending the sessions of the legislative assembly to be conducted. There was also a voting session that was going to be held, which he was not allowed to attend. At the assembly session, where his vote was very important, though the person to whom he wanted to vote won, but his right to vote was infringed. He was arrested and was not even presented before the court for four days, and was kept in a hidden place. The case is all about the violation of personal liberty where the police though had obtained remand of the arrested person but failed to produce him before the magistrate within the requisite period. There was a gross violation of rights mentioned under Article 21 and Article 22. It was held that there was an arrest with mischievous, malicious intent, and the plaintiff was entitled to the compensation since there was an arrest of a member of the legislative assembly while he was on his way to attend the assembly proceedings resulting in the deprivation of the right to attend the impending assembly session. In particular cases of Injuria Sine Damnum, the court has the jurisdiction to compensate by awarding suitable monetary compensation. It was concluded, however, that the member of the legislative assembly was arrested while on his route to the assembly, and consequently, the member was deprived of his constitutional rights to attend the assembly session. Hence, he was reasonably entitled to be compensated for.


The two maxims are such that one is a moral wrong for which the law gives no remedy even though they cause great loss or detriment to the plaintiff, but on the other hand, the other maxim deals with a legal wrong for which the law does give a legal remedy though there be a violation of a private right, without actual loss or detriment in that case. The main aim of the maxim Damnum Sine Injuria is that no ground of action or no cause of action lies against a person who is acting within reasonable limits even though the other person is suffering losses on that account whereas, the main aim of the maxim Injuria Sine damnum is that if the legal right of a person is violated then a cause of action arises, and the person whose legal right has been infringed is entitled to bring a suit against the person who has done it. In these cases, a qualified right has been violated, which is different from absolute rights.

[1]Mogul Steamship Co Ltd v McGregor, Gow & Co [1892] AC 25

[2] Bhim Singh v. the State of Jammu and Kashmir AIR 1986 SC 494

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