IGNORANTIA JURIS NON EXCUSAT

Ignorantia juris non excusat is maxim of law which in Latin term means ignorance of the law is no excuse. In terms of law, ignorance of fact can be excused but ignorance of law can never be excused. The main motive behind the maxim is that if any accusation of offence is made against an individual, then the person cannot avoid the accountability by claiming that he was not familiar with the law.

In accordance to the maxim, if the law is ignored, it cannot be considered as an excuse to not comply it. If there is lack of facts in a case, one can ignore it but in case of ignorance of law. Every individual must be well acquainted by the laws of the particular inhabitant country and if the individual is unknown to the laws then it cannot be regarded as a cause to not follow it. If an individual is living in a different country, not his inhabitant one, then he is also required to be familiar with the country laws in which he is temporarily living and obey them accordingly. In criminal law, this maxim is often in use. As a warning, this maxim states that if the law is violated by any person then that particular person is liable to be punished irrespective of the fact of whether he knew or was unaware of the particular law and this would be considered as a criminal offence.

In order to avoid the consequences of unlawful actions, ignorance of law cannot be put into application as a protection. The basis logic behind the doctrine of ignorance was that if it was to be considered as an excuse, then a person charged under any criminal offence or issue related to civil suit of law would have successfully been able to escape the liability claiming that he was not aware of the law. If ignorance of law would have been used as defence, then the individual though being completely familiar to the law and its consequences yet could use the maxim effortlessly. The machinery of the enforcement of law would have been immobilized. As the maxim lacks many properties, it is thus a negative fact and evidences cannot be appealed by the court. In such case, a rigorous evaluation of the state of mind of the wrongdoer is required, which in itself is a challenging task to perform. If there is relaxation of the maxim, then it would be pleaded on the part of every accused that the law was unknown to him. Thus, taking into consideration the stated reasons, the claims under the ignorance of law is rejected by the legal authorities.

In India, we have a variety of laws such as contract, family, civil, criminal etc. If any individual ignores any of the following laws, he is held responsible under the law. For example, a wild buffalo is shot by a man in India. The man assumed it to be a domestic buffalo and was unaware of the law of wild protection which states that hunting of wild buffalo is considered illegal in India. Thus, the man is said to be portraying in ignorance of law. Thus, the claim under the ignorance of law is rejected by the legal authorities. Ignorance of law simply means lack of understanding of the general laws which are supposed to be known to everyone not taking into account whether the whole fact is known to him or not. Every individual must be well acquainted by the laws of the particular inhabitant country and if the individual is unknown to the laws than it cannot be regarded as a cause to not follow it. The main motive behind the maxim is that if any accusation of offence is made against an individual, then the person cannot avoid the accountability by claiming that he was not familiar with the law.

For example, a rifle is owned by a woman without license. She is caught by the police as possession of any weapon without license is illegal. She claims her defence by stating that she was unaware of the law. However, she was held liable for the same because it is assumed that every individual of a particular country should be acquainted by the rules of its nation.

Therefore, it can be inferred that from the maxim “ignorantia juris non excusat’ that an individual who disobeys the law shall be held liable irrespective of whether they are familiar to the laws or not. The people are also warned by this maxim. The main principle is the effective judicial administration that is enable by the good in common.