Lex non cogit ad impossibilia

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lex non cogit ad impossibilia

Literal Meaning

The law compels no one to do vain or impossible.

Origin

Lex Non Cogit ad impossibilia’ is an age old maxim meaning that the law does not compel a man to do which he cannot possibly perform. In Hughey v. JMS Development[1], Justice Owens of the United States Court of Appeals used these words.
“Lex non cogit ad impossibilia: The law does not compel the doing of impossibilities”

In 2012, Justice Frankel of the British Columbia Court of Appeal rendered the maxim as follows (in Transportation Lease Systems Inc. v. Virdi).[2]

Explanation

Lex non cogit ad impossibilia‘ is a well-known maxim. It means the law does not compel a man to do that which he cannot possibly perform.

  • Lex: a system of law.
  • Non: does not
  • Cogit: to compel.
  • Ad: ‘to”
  • Impossibilia: impossible.

A body of law does not compel or forces someone to do the thing which is impossible. 

Illustration

“Where the law creates a duty or charge and the party is disabled to perform it, without any default in him and has no remedy over it, there the law will in general excuse him”.

Cases Refered

The Inter College, Through Its … vs The State Of U.P. [3]

In Re Presidential Pool The maxim of law impotentia excusat legam is intimately connected with another maxim of law lexnon cogit ad impossibilia. Impotentia excusat legam is that when there is a necessary or invincible disability to perform the mandatory part of the law that impotentia excuses. The law does not compel one to do that which one cannot possibly perform. “Where the law creates a duty or charge and the party is disabled to perform it, without any default in him and has no remedy over it, there the law will in general excuse him.” Therefore, when it appears that the performance of the formalities prescribed by a statute has been rendered impossible by circumstances over which the persons interested had no control, like the act of God, the circumstances will be taken as a valid excuse.

In State of Rajasthan v. Shamsher Singh 

“Mr. Jethmalani placed before us a passage from Broom’s Legal Maxims (p. 162), 10th Edn., where the doctrine of impossibility of performance (lex non cogit ad impossibilia) has been discussed. It has been indicated therein that however mandatory the provision may be, where it is impossible of compliance that would be a sufficient excuse for non-compliance, particularly when it is a question of the time factor”.

.Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1] 78 F. 3d 1523 (1996).

[2] Ohio App. 2d 244 (1966)

[3] 6 January, 2006