Ignorantia juris non excusat

Adyasree Prakriti Sivakumar

Ignorantia juris non excusat” is a Latin legal maxim, on literal interpretation, means Ignorance of Law is not an excuse. This is one of the most important and basic concepts any lawyer or legal academician should know. Also, being law students it becomes necessary for us also to know about it.

This term, is derived from the Latin word. The origin of the of the maxim can be found with the philosophies of the Greeks and Romans. These cultures were heavily influenced by customary legal systems. Within such a system, law is learned as a person participates in the culture and customs ornate community. Thus, it is unreasonable to believe a person could have avoided learning them. These rules and customs were also interwoven with ethical and religious dialog and hence, the practice of laws became an involuntarily phenomenal

The ratio for this doctrine is to punish all offenders and not let him escape liability on the grounds that he was unaware of the law. The application of this maxim is more wide in civil cases than criminal cases.

For example, if a person wants to start a business he needs to be aware of the rules and regulations and the procedure involved in doing so. He needs to be aware of the various acts and statues that govern the Labour Laws. Some of them being the payment of wages, safe and secure working conditions and the compulsory establishment of grievance cells for both the employees and customers. If at a later date he is brought before law, he cannot merely deny the claim on the grounds that he was unaware of the law.

It is simple to know for basic things like a murder or killing the defaulter is sure to get punished. Now, the main question that raises here is how is a lay man supposed to be aware for the laws of the land, especially laws relating to environment, property, or ownership? These are not that common concepts that one comes across in our day to day life. Hence, for such concepts the government has a duty to publish the laws on a public platform. A public platform is one where any common man can view the laws of the land. They include, government gazettes or official documents which are available easily for a reasonable price. Also today, in an era where computerisation had become a sole criteria, to save trees, that the legal contents and can be easily downloaded for free. The statues and cases are available for free on many a web sites. Hence, anyone afoul with the law cannot claim that he wasn’t aware of the law.

With increasing crime rates in every aspect of life it becomes necessary to impart legal education not just at the graduation level but also a very basic at the school level. By doing so we are preparing our younger generation to not only become better citizens but also better and civilised individuals.

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