Negotiable Instruments: Exhaustive Coverage by Adv Roma Bhagat. Register Now!
LCI Learning

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More

The Article titled "IGNORANCE OFLAW MUST BE AN EXCUSE IN CIVIL MATTERS" by Mr. Narender Sharma, to say the least,  stems out of utter ignorance - ignorance not of any law - but the ignorance about the very need for codified law for an orderly society!

The grounds advanced by the Author for making "Ignorance of law MUST BE AN EXCUSE in civil matters" lacks substance.  For the present, let me confine myself to demolish only those grounds that have been advanced.

(1) Though there may be any number of laws in a country, that in itself cannot be a reason to say that "ignorance of law must be excused".  A person of ordinary prudence would definitely know and ought to know whether what he does is correct or not.  In case of doubt, has to seek advice and then act.  Otherwise everyone will claim that he is ignorant and will escape and there will only be anarchy in the society.  For instance, if my neighbour breaks my wall - says that he is ignorant that there is any law that he should not do so.  Should he escape?

Another person,  marries a number of girls - says that he is not aware that one can marry only one lady and during her life time without divorce he cannot marry anybody else.  Should he be excused.

A man continuously beats his wife - says that he is not aware that beating of wife is wrong accoring to law. Should he be excused?

A person enters into an agreement to sell a property and takes money.  Later on he does not honour the agreement, but sells the property to some one else.  When the original party comes he says that he was not aware that he is supposed to honor the agreement to sell - should he be excused?

A person takes a loan - does not repay. Says he is not aware that there is any law that he should repay the loan.  Should he be excused?

A man completely blocks the entrance to the colony and thereby preventing persons from entering into their own house.  He says that he is ignorant of any law that he should not block the easement of others.  Can we excuse him because he is ignorant of law?

A person has leopards and tigers as pets in his house creating fear and nuisance in the vicinity.  He says he is ignorant of any law that prohibits him from keeping such animals as pets. 

A man deals in hazardous chemicals within his house - people nearby get affected because of the chemical substance.  He claims that he is ignorant of any law which prohibits such acts.  Can he be excused?

These are a very few examples to say why "ignorance of law cannot be an excuse".

If an Advocate cannot remember any law, then he cannot practice in such a law and he will lose his income - there may be other specialists who are aware of such a law and clients will go to that specialist.  Therefore, if an Advocate does not know a particular law, that cannot be a ground to say "person ignorant of law should be excused".

As regards "Impossible Acts" - the author seems to be highly confused.  What Section 56 of Contract Act refers to is such terms in the contract which are impossible to perform.  For instance, if there is a term in the contract that one has to shift the mountain from point X to point Y - the activity is impossible to perform by anybody and therefore even though there may be such a term agreed to by the parties, since it is impossible to be performed the said term is void.  That provision is not to say that "ignorance" and "impossibility" are same. 

If a businessman enters into a contract to supply goods to another businessman in a particular coutnry. Suppose war breaks out between these two countries and the Governments impose ban on trade between the countries, naturally the contract is impossible to be performed.  It is not ignorance, it is impossibility in this case.

No one wants any one to remember all the laws in the country.  But the persons who are legally trained would definitely know there are laws on the subject - in any case they would search for and verify the existence or non-existence of any such law.

The support which the author tries to derive from the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of S. Nagaraj vs State of Karnataka is highly misplaced.  If only one has to accept the proposition of the author, the Supreme Court ought to have simply said that we are not aware of any such law as such we should be excused and no relief should have been given to the party.  But on the contrary, what SC has said was that we had made a mistake in making an order which is against law, and set right its own earlier wrong order.

Thus, it is preposterous to suggest that "Ignorance must be made a ground for excuse in civil matters".

Further, why the author is considerate enough to leave out the Criminal matters from the said doctrine proposed by him, especially when the number of laws on the criminal side is also equally large.  In fact, since in criminal side, the punishment will also be severe and even may lead up to death sentence, if the author is to be believed, then the proposed doctrine "ignorance of law must be excused" should apply to Criminal Matters more than in civil matters!

The author's suggestion that "Ignorance of law MUST BE made a ground for compounding an offence in deserving financial / criminal offences", is the worst remedy.  If only this is permitted, then I can commit hundred murders or open loot in a day and get it compounded and walk free to commit much more such cold blooded murders / day light loots - since I can claim I am ignorant of law and my offence would be compounded!!!

I dread the day when such a proposition would be accepted.

I pity those who hailed the article as "Great Article".

"Loved reading this piece by R.Ramachandran?
Join LAWyersClubIndia's network for daily News Updates, Judgment Summaries, Articles, Forum Threads, Online Law Courses, and MUCH MORE!!"

Tags :

Category Civil Law, Other Articles by - R.Ramachandran