An overview of 'Damnum Sine Injuria'
Authored By- Munis Nasir
Keywords- Legal Right, unauthorized interference, Torts
In order to be successful in regard to an action for tort, the plaintiff has to prove that there has been legal damage caused to him. In other words, if there has not been a violation of a legal right, there can be no action under the law of torts. Damnum sine Injuria stands for damage without infringement of any legal right whereas Injuria sine Damnum stands for violation of a legal right without causing any harm.
Damnum sine injuria means damages, monetary loss to the plaintiff without violation of a legal right, but, is not actionable under the court of law as there is no injury to the legal right of an individual. Damnum stands for damage which can be in the form of money, health, etc., Sine stands for without and Injuria stands for infringement of a legal right.
Damnum sine injuria means damage which is not related to an unauthorized interference with the plaintiff’s lawful right. Causing damage to another person is not actionable in law as it depends on whether there is a violation of a legal right of the plaintiff or not. There are many acts which though harmful are not harmful in the eyes of law, thereby does not give a right of action in favour of the person. Under the Court of law, no one is to be considered a wrongdoer who merely avails himself with respect to his/her legal rights, although by his/her action result in damage to another.
In Gloucester Grammar School Case, the defendant was a faculty teacher within the plaintiff’s school. In regard to some dispute, the defendant left the plaintiff’s school and opened a rival school next to the plaintiff’s. As the defendant was famous amongst his ex-students for his teaching, so the students from the plaintiff’s school left and joined the defendant’s school. Due to the competition, the plaintiffs had to reduce their fees from 40 pence to 12 pence per scholar per quarter. As a result, the plaintiff suffered monetary loss. The plaintiff sued the defendant for the monetary loss caused. However, it was held in the case that no suit could lay and the defendant was not liable. The defendant lawfully opened the school but didn’t violate any legal rights of the plaintiff. J. Hankford said: “Damnum may be abseque injuria, as if I have a mill and my neighbour builds another mill whereby the profit of my mill is, although I diminished, I shall have no action against him, although I am damaged….. if a miller disturbs the water from going to my mill, or does any nuisance of the like sort, I shall have such action as the law gives”.
In Mogul Steamship Co. v. McGregor Gow and Co, the defendants were certain firms of ship-owners who were engaged in carrying trade in respect of tea between China and Europe, combined together and offered reduced freight in order to monopolize the trade. As a result the plaintiff, rival trader suffered losses and was driven out of the trade. The plaintiff brought an action against the defendant. The House of Lords held that the defendants were not liable for any type of action as the defendants by lawful means acted to protect to extend their trade and increase their profits.
Injuria Sine Damnum
There are two types of torts: First, the torts which are actionable per se i.e. actionable without the proof of any damage or loss and the other which are actionable only on the proof of some damage by an act.
Injuria Sine Damnum is the legal maxim that stands for the infringement of the legal right without causing any harm to the plaintiff. It covers the first of the above-stated cases means in such cases; there is no need to prove that as a consequence of an act on part of the plaintiff. One major thing which needs to be proved is the violation of the plaintiff’s legal right.
In Ashby v. White, the plaintiff succeeded in his action, even though the defendant’s actions did not cause any damage. The Plaintiff in the case was a qualified eligible voter at an election, but the defendant, a returning officer, wrongfully stopped the plaintiff in granting vote. No loss was suffered to the plaintiff because the candidate for which he wants to cast vote won the election in spite of that. It was held that the defendant was liable.
In Bhim Singh v. State of J. & K., the petitioner was the M.L.A. of J&K who was wrongfully detained by the police while he was going to attend the assembly session. Further, he was not produced before the Magistrate within the requisite period. In regard to this, the member’s constitutional right was violated to attend the assembly session. Moreover, there was also a violation of the fundamental right to personal rights and liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. Supreme Court released Bhim Singh by way of consequential relief of Rs.50,000.
In case of Injuria Sine Damnum, the loss suffered to the Plaintiff is only relevant to the measure of damages and not of the purpose or cause of action.
Therefore what is actionable in the court of law is the violation of a legal right, and in Damnum Sine Injuria follows no violation of a legal right, so no action can lie under a court of law even though the defendant’s act has resulted in some loss or harm or damage to the plaintiff.
 (1411) Y.B. Hen 4  (1892) A.C. 25  (1703) 92 ER 126  A.I.R. 1986 S.C. 494
2. Law of Torts by R.K. Bangia (2017 edn)