Injuria sine damno
Injuria sine damno means violation of a legal right without causing any harm, loss or damage to the plaintiff. There are two kinds of torts:
Firstly, those torts which are actionable per se, i.e., actionable without the proof of any damage or loss. For instance, trespass to land is actionable even though no damage has been caused as a result of the trespass.
Secondly, the torts which are actionable only on the proof of some damage caused by an act.
Injuria sine damno covers the first of the above stated cases. In such cases, there is no need to prove that as a consequence of an act, the plaintiff has suffered any harm. For a successful action, the only thing which has to be proved is that the plaintiff's legal right has been violated, i.e., there is injuria. Ashby v. White1 is a leading case explaining the maxim injuria sine damno. In this case, the plaintiff succeeded in his action, even though the defendant's act did not cause any damage. The plaintiff was a qualified voter at a Parliamentary election, but the defendant, a returning officer, wrongfully refused to take plaintiff's vote. No loss was suffered by such refusal because the candidate for whom he wanted to vote won the election in spite of that. It was held that the defendant was liable. 2 Holt, C.J. said : "If the plaintiff has a right, he must of necessity have a means to vindicate and maintain it, and a remedy, if he is injured in the exercise of enjoyment of it; and indeed, it is a vain thing to imagine a right without a remedy; for want of right and want of remedy are reciprocal." "Every injury imports a damage, though it does not cost the party one farthing. For a damage not merely pecuniary but an injury imports a damage, when a person is thereby hindered of his right. As in an action for slanderous words, though a man does not lose a penny by reason of speaking them, yet he shall have an action. So, if a man gives another a cuff on the ear, though it cost him nothing, no, not so much as a little diachylon (plaster), yet he shall have his action, for it is a personal injury. So, a man shall have an action against another for riding over his ground, though it does him no damage; for it is an invasion of his property, and the other has no right to come there".1 In Bhim Singh v. State of J. & K.,2 the petitioner, an M.L.A. of J & K. Assembly, was wrongfully detained by the police while he was going to attend the Assembly session. He was not produced before the Magistrate within requisite period. As a consequence of this, the member was deprived of his constitutional right to attend the Assembly session. There was also violation of fundamental right to personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. By the time the petition was decided by the Supreme Court, Bhim Singh had been released, but by way of consequential relief, exemplary damages amounting to Rs. 50,000 were awarded to him. In case of injuria sine damno, the loss suffered by the plaintiff is not relevant for the purpose of a cause of action. It may be relevant only as regards the measure of damages. If the plaintiff has suffered no harm and yet the wrongful act is actionable, the question which arises is how much compensation is to be paid to the plaintiff? In such a case, generally, nominal damages may be awarded. For instance, the amount of compensation payable may be just five rupees. The purpose of law is served in so far as the violation of legal right does not remain without a legal remedy. If, however, the court feels that the violation of a legal right is owing to mischievous and malicious act, as had happened in Bhim Singh's case, the court may grant even exemplary damages. In Bhim Singh's case, as has been noted above, when a member of the Legislative Assembly was wrongfully detained by the police so as to prevent him from exercising his right of attending the session of the Assembly, he was granted exemplary damages amounting to Rs. 50,000/-.