Legal Maxims

Dura lex sed lex- law is hard but it is law

It is a settled legal position that law of limitation may harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its rigour when the statute show prescribes. The Court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds. “A result flowing from a statutory provision is never an evil. A Court has no power to ignore the provision to relieve what is considers a distress resulting from it operation.” The statutory provision may cause hardship or inconvenience to a particular party but the Court has no choice but to enforce it giving full effect to the same. The legal maxim “dura lex sed lex” which means “the law is hard but it is the law”, stands attracted in such a situation. It has consistently been held that, “inconvenience is not” a decisive factor to be considered while interpreting a statute.

Judges cannot take over the role of the Legislature or executive, as held in Rama Muthuramalingam, State Propaganda Committee Member Vs. The Deputy Superintendent of Police and Others, . Judges must exercise self-restraint and cannot direct that the law should be broken, rather, it is their duty to direct that the law should be followed. If a person is over-age, it may cause hardship to him, but on the ground of hardship, we cannot direct that the law should be broken. When there is any conflict between the law and equity, it is the law which has to prevail, however great the hardship that may be caused. As is said in Latin, ‘dura lex sed lex’, which means, ‘The law is hard, but it is the law.’

It has been held in Raghunath Rai Bareja and Another Vs. Punjab National Bank and Others, that when there is a conflict between law and equity, it is the law which has to prevail in accordance with the latin maxim ‘dura lex sed lex’ which means ‘the law is hard but it is the law’. Equity can only supplement the law, but it cannot supplant or override it.

It has been held in Raghunath Rai Bareja and Another Vs. Punjab National Bank and Others, that when there is a conflict between law and equity, it is the law which has to prevail in accordance with the latin maxim ‘dura lex sed lex’ which means ‘the law is hard but it is the law’. Equity can only supplement the law, but it cannot supplant or override it.

Apex Court reported in Popat Bahiru Govardhane etc. Vs. Special Land Acquisition Officer and Another, (2014) 1 ABR 235 : (2014) 2 AD 607 : (2014) 1 RCR(Civil) 557 : (2013) 10 SCALE 371 : (2013) 10 SCC 765 and he has placed paragraph 16 of the said judgment which is quoted hereinbelow:–

“16. It is a settled legal proposition that law of limitation may harshly affect a particular party but it has to be applied with all its rigour when the statute so prescribes. The court has no power to extend the period of limitation on equitable grounds. The statutory provision may cause hardship or inconvenience to a particular party but the court has no choice but to enforce it giving full effect to the same. The legal maxim dura lex sed lex which means “the law is hard but it is the law”, stands attracted in such a situation. It has consistently been held that, “inconvenience is not” a decisive factor to be considered while interpreting a statute. “A result flowing from a statutory provision is never an evil. A court has no power to ignore that provision to relieve what in considers a distress resulting from its operation.”

In The Bengal Immunity Company Limited Vs. The State of Bihar and Others, , it was observed by the Supreme Court that if there is any hardship it is for the Parliament to amend the law, but the Court cannot be called upon to discard the cardinal Rule of interpretation for mitigating a hardship. If the language of an Act is sufficiently clear the Court has to give effect to it however inequitable or unjust the result may be. As is said, ‘dura lex sed lex’ which means ‘the law is hard but it is the law’. In our opinion, even if the impugned amendment is causing hardship to some people it is not for this Court to amend the law. A legal enactment must be interpreted in its plain and literal sense as that is the first principle of interpretation. In our opinion, the impugned amendment to the Stamp Act is clear and unambiguous.

 In Abel v. Lee 1871 LR 6 CP 365, Willes, J., observed :

“I utterly repudiate a notion that it is competent to a Judge to modify the language of an Act of Parliament in order to bring it in accordance with his views as to what is right and reasonable.”

 In Miller v. Salomons, 7 Ex. 475, Polak, J., observed :

“If the meaning of the language be plain and clear we have nothing to do but to obey it to administer it as we find it and to take a different course is to abandon the office of a Judge and to assume the province of legislation.”

Categories: Legal Maxims

Tagged as: