Rex non potest peccare

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Rex non potest peccare

Literal Meaning

The King can do no wrong. 

Explanation

This maxim has been the background of the legal principle, mostly now discarded, that a citizen could not sue the state for any alleged tort. On a regular basis in modern courts, Crown liability is being tested and teased into the common law rendering the maxim rex non potest peccare more and more into the dust-bin of law.[1]The principle laid down by this is also sometimes referred to as the ‘Principle of Sovereign Immunity’ 

Illustration

Due to some act of the state ‘A’ has to suffer few losses, however he was not able to sue the state for it as the state was protected by the principle laid by the maxim ‘Rex Non Potest Peccare’ 

Indian Law Position

The Law Commission of India in its very first report recommended the abolition of this outdated doctrine. But for various reasons, the draft bill for the abolition of this doctrine was never passed, and thus it was left to the courts to decide on the compatibility of this doctrine in accordance with the Constitution of India

Article 300 of the Indian Constitution states the following – 

“300. Suits and Proceedings – 

  • The Governor of India may sue or be sued by the name of the Union and the Government of a State may sue or be sued by the name of the State and may, subject to any provisions which may be made by Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of such State enacted by virtue of powers conferred by this Constitution, sue or be sued in relation to their respective affairs in the like cases as the Dominion of India and the corresponding Provinces or the corresponding Indian States might have sued or been sued if this Constitution had not been enacted
  • if at the commencement of this Constitution

any legal proceedings are pending to which the Dominion of India is a party, the Union of India shall be deemed to be substituted for the Dominion in those proceedings; and

Any legal proceedings are pending to which a Province or an Indian State is a party, the corresponding State shall be deemed to be substituted for the Province or the Indian State in those proceedings CHAPTER IV RIGHT TO PROPERTY.” [1]

Cases Referred

State of Rajasthan v. Vidyawati 

In this case, court rejected the plea of immunity of the State and held that the State was liable for the tortious act of the driver like any other employer.[1]

Kasturi Lal v. State of U.P.

In this case the honorable Supreme Court of India considered the issue of ‘Sovereign Immunity’.[2]

Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India

In this case the honorable Supreme Court stated the following – 

“The Maxim that King can do no wrong or that the Crown is not answerable in tort has no place in Indian jurisprudence where the power vests, not in the Crown, but in the people who elect their representatives to run the Government, which has to act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and would be answerable to the people for any violation thereof”[3]

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference

[1] Rex Non Potest Peccare, Duhaime’s Law Dictionary (June 22, 2019, 2019),  http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/R/RexNonPotestPeccare.aspx.   

[2] Constitution Of India 1950, Art. 300.

[3] State of Rajasthan v. Vidyawati, AIR 1962 SC 933.

[4] Kasturi Lal v. State of U.P., AIR 1965 SC 1039.

[5] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1978 AIR 597.