Lex Prospicit Non Respicit

Lex Prospicit Non Respicit

Literal Meaning

Latin, meaning “the law looks forward, not backward”.


“Perhaps no rule of construction is more firmly established than thus – that a retrospective operation is not to be given to a statute so as to impair an existing right or obligation, otherwise than as regards matters of procedure, unless that effect cannot be avoided without doing violence to the language of the enactment. If the enactment is expressed in language which is fairly capable of either interpretation, it ought to be construed as prospective only. The rule has, in fact, two aspects, for it, “involves another and subordinate rule, to the effect that a statute is not to be construed so as to have a greater retrospective operation than its language renders necessary”.


The law looks forward, not backward. It is also known as “retrospective principle”.

Let us discuss the words of legal maxim for better understanding:

  • Lex- a system of law.
  • Prospicit- to look forward.
  • Respicit- to look behind.

The law always look forward not backward. It does not have retrospective effect. It does not deal with past events and matters.


The Government introduced retrospective legislation to change the rules.

Cases Refered

In Sukhram v. Harbheji[1]

Now a law is undoubtedly retrospective if the law says so expressly but it is not always necessary to say so expressly to make the law retrospective. There are occasions when a law may be held to be retrospective in operation. Retrospection is not to be presumed for the presumption is the other way but many statutes have been regarded as retrospective without a declaration. Thus it is that remedial statutes are always regarded as prospective but declaratory statutes are considered retrospective. Similarly sometimes statutes have a retrospective effect when the declared intention is clearly and unequivocally manifest from the language employed in the particular law or in the context of connected provisions. It is always a question whether the legislature has sufficiently expressed itself.

In R. Rajagopal Reddy v. Padmini Chandrasekharan[2]

this Court was called upon to interpret the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988. A 3-Judge Bench of this Court overruled Mithilesh Kumari v. Prem Behari Khare[3], in arriving at the conclusion that the 1988 Act was prospective and not retrospective. In so overruling the Division Bench judgment, this Court held that the Act is not expressly retrospective, so that an enquiry would lie as to whether it could be said to be clarificatory or declaratory.

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[1] [1969] 3 S.C.R. 752.

[2] (1995) 2 SCC 630.

[3] (1989) 2 SCC 95.

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