Injuria sine Damnum

Injuria‘ means infringement of a legally protected interest (i.e., right) of the plaintiff. ‘Sine‘ means without or absent. It is the same thing as ‘abseque’. And ‘damnum‘ means actual physical loss whether in terms of money, comfort, health, service or the like. The import of this maxim is that if the right of the plaintiff has been infringed he will have an action even if the actual physical damage is not there.

The leading case on this maxim is Ashby, v. White, where the Court allowed the action for damages irrespective of the fact that the plaintiff did not suffer any pecuniary loss.

Ashby v. White (Refusal to register vote)

In this case the defendant a returning officer, wrongfully refused to register a duly tendered vote of the plaintiff, who was a qualified voter. The candidate for whom the vote was sought to be tendered was elected and no loss was suffered by the rejection of the plaintiff’s vote. Held that neverthless an action lay.

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The action was allowed on the ground that the violation of plaintiff’s statutory right was an injury for which he must have a remedy and was actionable without proof of pecuniary damage. (In this case, however, the returning officer had acted maliciously). In this case Lord Holt, CJ, observed:

“Every injury imports a damage, though it does not cost the party one farthing, and it is impossible to prove the contrary: for a damage is not merely pecuniary, but an injury imports a damage, when a man is thereby hindered of his right. As in an action for slanderous words, though a man does not lose a penny by reason of speaking them, yet he shall have an action. So if a man gives another a cuff on the ear, though it cost him nothing, no, not so much title diachylon (plaster) yet he shall have his action, for it is a personal injury. So a man shall have action against another for riding over his ground though he does him no damage for it is an invasion of his property and the other had no right to come there.”

The maxim means that where there is an infringement of an absolute private right without an actual loss or damage, the person whose right is infringed has a direct cause of action. In such a case it is not necessary for the plaintiff to prove any special damage, because every injury imports a damage when a man is thereby hindered of his right.

Actual perceptible damage or loss or detriment is not, therefore, indispensable as the foundation of an action; it is sufficient to show the violation of a right and the law will presume damage. Trespass to person, i.e., assault, battery and imprisonment and trespass to property, whether it be on land or on goods and libel are instances of torts that are actionable per se.

Also Read A Private Defence: A general valid defences against a Tort Committed

Also Read An inevitable accident: A general valid defences against a tort committed

Decided Cases on Injuria Sine Damnum

In Kaliappa v. Vayapuri, it was held that if the plaintiff’s right is infringed and there is no proof of actual damage, still he is entitled to a decree without any monetary damages. A decree for injunction restraining the defendant from doing it again may be passed in such cases. In the case of Kalikissen Tager v. Jadoo Lal Mallick, the Privy Council has observed that “there may be, where a right is interfered with, injuria sine damno sufficient to find an action; but no-action can be maintained where there is neither damnum nor injuria.”

In a suit for damages which is grounded on a tort, the plaintiff cannot succeed merely on the ground of damages unless he can show that the damages were caused by violation of his legal right.

In the case of Bhikhi Ojha v. Harakh Kandu, the facts were that the Maharajah of Dumraon and his predecessors exercised from time immemorial a right to exclusively weigh the goods and produce sold at a bazar held upon their land and to claim all the weighment fees in respect of such transactions as took place there, in lieu of charging rent from the traders for the use of the land. The Maharajah leased to the plaintiff the exclusive right to weigh and receive the weighment fees in the bazar. It was held that a suit brought by the plaintiff for damages for wrongful obstruction of the right of weighing and making the collections obstruction was maintainable but that proof of actual damage was essential. Straight, J., observed: “if it is clearly established that the plaintiff possessed this right and that such right was infringed by the defendants to his pecuniary detriment and loss by the action of these defendants, he in my opinion, is entitled to maintain this suit and could recover such damages as the plaintiff may be shown to have sustained.”

If there is merely an infringement of legal right without actual damage the person whose right has been infringed can bring a suit under the provisions of Section 34 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963.

In the case of Municipal Board of Agra v. Asharfilal, if a person entitled to be upon the electoral roll is wrongfully omitted from such roll so as to be deprived of his right to vote, he suffers a legal injury for which an action lies. Similarly, in Balaji, v. Appa, obstruction of water was made by defendant only fourteen feet from the source of the spring. It was having deferred channels and hence action maintainable.

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