Legal Terms ( A )

A fortiori: Latin term used to denote a reason, which is similar to the existing one, but more stronger in nature. This term is often used to explain a situation in which one fact is already proven and ascertained, then it can be inferred that the related second fact is more true. For example, it is already proved that ‘A’ can carry a weight of 120 kilograms. Then, a fortiori, ‘A’ can also carry this object, which is only 60 kilograms in weight’.

Ab Initio: Latin term, commonly used in association with contracts and marriages. It means ‘from the very beginning’. The marriage is void ab initio, means that the marriage was not valid from the beginning itself.

A Priori: Latin term, which means that ‘from the cause to the effect’. It is based on the assumption that if the cause is a generally accepted truth, then a particular effect must follow. So, a priori judgment is considered to be true, but based on presumption and not on factual evidence.

Abandonment: The voluntary relinquishment of a right by express words or by action. This term can be used in the context of rights or obligations under a contract, over property, person (spouse or children) or voluntary withdrawal from the commission of a crime.

Abandoned Property: Such property, which has been abandoned by the owner.

Abatement: This term refers to the plea to squash and end a suit. It may also denote reducing or lessening of something. For example, in case of an eviction case, where the landlord is seeking unpaid rent, the tenant may make a plea for rent abatement, citing the poor living conditions of his premises.

Abduction: Refers to the crime of taking away a person by fraud, persuasion or force. It is different from kidnapping, which is done by force or threat only.

Abet: To aid or assist someone in committing a crime or inducing another to commit a crime. The person who gives assistance is called the abettor.

Abeyance: The condition of being suspended temporarily. If the ownership of a property is yet to be ascertained, it is said to be in abeyance.

Abscond: Fleeing the jurisdiction or hiding in order to escape legal proceedings or criminal prosecution. A person is said to have absconded, when he deliberately leaves the jurisdiction to avoid arrest or other such legal proceedings.

Absolute: A right is said to be absolute, when it is free from any condition or qualification. Absolute liability makes a person held liable for his action and no defense is available.

Abuse: Improper or excessive use of any legal right or process. It is abuse of discretion, when a court does not use appropriate laws or if the decision is based on erroneous facts. It is abuse of process, when civil or criminal legal procedure is initiated against any one for a malicious reason.

Acceleration Clause: A contractual provision, which hastens the due date of payment or obligation, as a penalty for default in the payment/obligation.

Access: A term used in family law and refers to the right of a spouse, which allows to spend time with children on a regular basis.

Accessory: A person is said to be an accessory, if he/she helps or encourages the commitment of a crime. He is an accessory before the fact, if he knows about the commission of the crime beforehand. He is an accessory after the fact, if he conceals the facts about the crime or aids in the escape of the perpetrator. An accessory may or may not be present at the scene of the crime.

Accident: An unforeseen incident caused by carelessness, ignorance or unawareness. The affected party can claim compensation if the accident results in injury.

Accomplice: A person who knowingly and voluntarily participates in the planning or commissioning of a crime. Such a person is differentiated from an accessory by being present or directly assisting the crime, and is liable for the same charge and punishment as the principal criminal.

Accord and Satisfaction: When disputing parties agree for a settlement and end the dispute regarding their reciprocal rights and obligations, an agreement is reached, which, when carried out will be capable of satisfying both parties. This method of discharging a particular claim is referred to as accord and satisfaction.

Accused: The term used to denote a person who is charged with the commission of an offense.

Acknowledgment: The term used for the certification given by an authorized official, that the person who has executed the document has appeared before him and declared under oath that the document and the signature in it are genuine.

Acquittal: The verdict of a jury, declaring that a criminal defendant is not guilty.

Action: A litigation or a legal proceeding which results in a judgment on completion. If the action is against a person, it is an action in personum, and if it against a thing (usually property), then it is an action in rem.

Act of God: A natural calamity (like earthquake, tornado and flood), which cannot be prevented by anyone. It is a natural process which happens without any human interference.

Actus Reus: The Latin term for a guilty act, which can be an action done or failure to do an action.

Ad Damnum: The specific clause of a legal complaint that deals with the damages suffered and claimed by the plaintiff.

Ad hoc: For a specific purpose. This term is commonly used as ‘Ad hoc’ committees, which are created for specific purposes.

Ademption: The revocation of a gift in a will by destructing or disposing of the gift before death, so that at the time of his/her death, the property no longer belongs to the person who has made the will.

Adjourn: To postpone the session of a court or any other similar tribunal to another date.

Admissible: Those evidence which can be legally used in a court.

Admission: A statement of a party involved in a claim, admitting all or some part of the other party’s claims is called admission.

Admiralty Law: Otherwise known as maritime law, and deals with the law regarding shipping, navigation and transportation by sea,.

Adoption: The legal process which makes a person (usually a child) a legal member of another family. On finalization of the proceedings of adoption, the rights and obligations of the biological parents get terminated, and the same is vested with the new parents of the adopted child.

Adultery: The term which denotes voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with a man/women, other than the spouse. Adultery is often used as a ground for divorce.

Adverse Possession: Acquisition of rights to a particular property belonging to another, by possessing it for a statutory period (usually 12 years). The continued use of a land or property by a person (other than the owner), for a statutory period without any complaint from the owner, makes him entitled to the ‘title to the land’, which is known as ‘possessory title’.

Advocate: A lawyer, who represents a party to a case in a court of law.

Affidavit: A sworn statement in writing, confirmed on oath by the party who makes it, before someone who is officially entitled to administer oaths.

Affirmation in Law: A solemn statement by a person that the evidence he or she is giving is true. An affirmation is equivalent to oath, as the witness may have no religious belief or he cannot take an oath, as per his religious beliefs.

Affray: A fight that takes place in some public place between two or more persons, to the terror of other people.

Agent: A person who is authorized by another to act for the latter (known as principal). The relationship between the principal and the agent is termed as an agency.

Aggrieved Party: A person whose pecuniary status has been affected by a decree or judgment, statute or any other legal proceeding. Such aggrieved parties can challenge the legality of the judgment or statute.

Agreement: A term that denotes the mutual consent between two or more parties regarding their rights and obligations in relation to a particular issue or thing. An agreement can be in a written form or verbal.

Alibi: Is a claim made by the defense counsel that the accused was somewhere else at the time the crime was committed.

Alienate: Alienation is the transfer of title to property (lands and tenements) and possession by one person to another.

Alimony: A periodical payment made by one spouse to the other in case of divorce, separation or while a matrimonial action is pending. Otherwise known as maintenance or spousal support, this amount is decided by the judge and a court order is passed to this effect.

Allegation: A statement made by a party in a pleading, which he/she is prepared to prove.

Amendment: A term used to denote any changes made in a bill, law or other court documents. As per the law of procedure, amendments must be authorized by the court and the amended document supersedes the original one.

Amicus Curiae: The literal meaning of this Latin term is ‘friend of the court’. It can be a person who is not a party to the case, but is allowed by the court to provide information about the case.

Amnesty: A legislative or executive proclamation granting pardon for committing some specific crime. Amnesty is usually granted to a whole group of criminals or supposed criminals, especially political criminals.

American Law Reports: A publication series which reports all court cases from all United States jurisdictions, legal doctrines and principles.

Annulment: Annul means to invalidate something, and the term annulment refers to the judgment that declares a marriage as void. As per such a judgment, the persons are to be considered as never having been married at all.

Appeal: A request or an application made by the defeated party (to a lawsuit) to a higher court for reviewing the decision of the lower court. The party who is making the application for appeal is called an appellant, and the party who opposes the appeal is called appellee. The court which has the jurisdiction to hear the appeal and review the decision of a trial court is known as appellate court. Appeal bond is a guaranty by the party who files the appeal to the effect that the court costs will be paid and the appeal will be filed within the statutory time limit (appeal period).

Appearance: Being present before a court of law as a party to a suit, either in person or through an attorney. An appearance notice is a document which demands the appearance of people before the court on the specified dates.

Application: Filing of the requisite court form to initiate a legal proceeding or a request made to a court.

Approver: A criminal who confesses the crime and accuses his accomplice for the same. An approver is granted permission to give evidence against the accomplice.

Appurtenances: Things incidental to the principal thing, which is commonly referred to as dominant. In case of land, appurtenances include easement and right to way.

Arbitration: The alternative process of solving disputes, in which the disputing parties agree to abide by the decision of an arbitrator (a private and impartial person, who is chosen by the parties for solving the dispute. In most places, the provisions for arbitration are governed by statutes.

Argument: A reason advanced to prove a point or to rebut it.

Arraignment: A legal proceeding in which the accused is brought before the court to formally read the complaint against him. An arraignment is meant to inform the accused of the charges against him/her, and the person is required to enter a plea whether he/she is guilty or not.

Arrest: To detain a person with lawful authority, especially those who are suspected to have committed a crime. The term is also used to denote a seizure of personal property by legal authority.

Arrest of Judgment: The court withholds the pronouncement of the judgment, upon the application of a party to the dispute who claims to prove a material error in the records or trial, which can make the entire proceeding invalid.

Arson: The willful burning of the house or other structures belonging to others without any legal authority is called arson. Burning of wild land areas without any lawful authority also comes under arson.

Articles: Agreements are usually divided into separate paragraphs and each paragraph is referred to as an article. The same term applies to the separate sections of the Constitution.

Articles of Confederation: The first constitution made the original thirteen states of the United States of America, and came into force on March 1, 1781. It was the supreme law of the land till March, 1789.

Artificial Person: Unlike a natural human being, an artificial person is a legal entity, created by law, who may be attached with legal rights and duties.

Assault: Any willful attempt or threat to inflict injury on some person, with an ability to carry out the threat. It also includes a display of force to frighten the victim and make him believe that the former is capable of causing bodily harm.

Assets: Property of any kind, which is owned and possessed by any person, corporation, estate, or other entity. Assets include real and personal property, like cash, real estate, securities and vehicles, and should be of some economic value to its owner.

Assignment: The transfer of property rights (real or personal) to another person through a written agreement. The person, who is the recipient of the rights is called an assignee, and the one who had transferred the rights is called an assignor.

Attachment: The process of legally seizing a property in order to force the person to appear before the court or to ensure that the owner of the said property complies with the decision of the court in a pending suit.

Attempt: The intentional and overt act, which if succeeds, would have been considered as a crime. The attempt to commit a crime in itself is a criminal offense.

Attestation: The act of signing a document as a witness, affirming that the information given in the legal document (will, deed, etc.) is true.

Attorneys: An attorney, who is otherwise called a lawyer, barrister or solicitor, is a person authorized by the state to practice law. The term ‘attorney’ is mainly used in the United States to denote a practitioner in a court of law. The main responsibilities of attorneys include providing legal counsel, representing and defending their clients before courts and drafting legal documents.

Award: The term used to denote the final decision of a court in some lawsuits. Mainly used in case of judgments granting money or other damages to the party in whose favor the judgment is delivered. It is also used to denote the final decision of an arbitrator.

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