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Nemo Debet Bis Vexari Pro Una Et Eadem Causa

Nobody should be vexed for same act twice. The maxim Nemo Debet Bis Vexari Pro Una Et Eadem Causa is supposed to originate from old administrative law in Rome.[i] This term in Latin translates to 'no one shall be harassed twice for the same cause' roughly.[ii] The principle refuses the need for subsequent trials where justice is served at the outset through the judicial mechanism adequately.

Generally, the principle possess two rules broadly applied through jurisprudence. First, the verdict of the first trial should be consistent with the law. Second, it does not apply when new evidence emerges after the first trial or if the first verdict was obtained by fraud.[iii]

Development over the 1800s

Marriot v. Hampton is one of the first recorded instances using this principle.[iv] Subsequently, it became foundational to jurisprudence on the principle. English cases heard after the decision either utilized it as precedent or reject it in the establishment of newer interpretations. Marriot sued Hampton for the price of goods sold, for which Hampton had before paid, and obtained a receipt.

As Hampton was not able to find the receipt, and had no other proof of the payment, Hampton was obliged to submit to pay the money again but having afterwards found the missing document, he brought an action against Marriot for money had and received. However, Lord Kenyon was of opinion that, the money had been paid under legal process, and it could not be recovered back again and this opinion was fully confirmed by the Court.

It was laid down that, where one party to the other has paid money after bona fide legal proceedings, even if the money is later discovered not to have been due, the party who has paid will nevertheless be barred from recovering the money.[v] The same interpretation was used with payment being made without factual knowledge of the facts in cases like Hamlet v. Richardson. [vi]

In Todd v. Stewart, it was held that the effect of judgment for a sum less than that sued for in the action then before the Court was considered. Such an action of debt is on simple contract for a monetary sum. Stewart pleaded as to a sum lower than the action of debt sum for payment, and as being impleaded for action on promises, and recovered a sum lower that demanded as well for their damages in the said action as for their costs. It was alleged that the residue were not the causes of action in respect of which the judgment was recovered. It was held by the Court of Exchequer Chamber that the above plea was good after verdict, and that it amounted to an ordinary plea of judgment recovered. [vii]

Subsequently, cases such as Outram v. Morewood submitted to the aforementioned reasoning and remarked that that a judgment recovered will be admissible as evidence except between the same parties.[viii] Trevivan v. Lawrence interpreted the reasoning as suing in the same right. Thus, extending to between privies in blood, law, or estate.[ix] In Kinnersley v. Cope it was held that a judgment will be evidence between those who nominally are not, but in reality are substantially the same parties. [x]

The ruling in King v. Hoare held that a judgment without satisfaction recovered against one of two joint debtors may be pleaded in bar of an action against the other contracting party. It observed that in situations of a breach of contract by one against another, and judgment be recovered in a court of record, the judgment is a bar to the original cause of action. This is a result of it being reduced to a certainty. The object of the suit would be useless and vexatious to subject to another suit for obtaining the same result. [xi]

Development over the 1900s

In 1900s, the Harrop v. Harrop applied the principle with some new reasoning.[xii] It held that a judgment or a sentence is a judicial determination of cause agitated by the parties upon which a real interest has been settled. [xiii] Providing for the requisites that must exist for a case and in turn, its judgment to legitimate. [xiv] It states that five elements for a valid judgment. First, the interest of the parties must be real. Second, argumentation provided by the counsels must be genuine. Third, the prosecution must be genuine. Fourth, the defence must be real. Lastly, the decision must be real.[xv]

Furthermore, instances like the decision in Brandon v. Becher state that no requisites provided under these five elements can exist in a fraudulent suit. The judge claims that there is no judge, instead they are just a person invested with the ensigns of a judicial office and is misemployed in listening to a fictitious cause proposed. Furthermore, no party litigating, no party defending and no real interest that can exist in such a suit.[xvi]

Statutory position
The principle is often encompassed within most modern conceptions of 'double jeopardy'. For example, Article 20 (2) of the Constitution of India mandates that 'no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once'. This is represents double jeopardy. Referring to the danger of conviction that an accused person is subjected to when tried. [xvii]

Nations such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States all possess differing legislations and jurisprudences on double jeopardy and transitively, on this principle.

Nemo Debet Bis Vexari Pro Una Et Eadem exists to compliment the process of delivering administrative justice. The principle has evolved through interpretation over time. In the 1800s, courts interpreted the principle to turn the deployment of justice easier. The dichotomy of justice that plagued this principle was between the swiftness and the denial. In the 1900s, courts choose to explicitly map out the functionality of the principle positively and negatively. It was essential to curb the probable exploitation of this principle. Today, this principle is most commonly contained within the conception of double jeopardy existing as a relevant safeguard statutorily across jurisdictions.

My research in Legal Language at Government Law College under the University of Mumbai's 60-40 grading scheme from 2018 (cancelled) was foundational to writing this.

  1. See Herbert Broom, a Selection of Legal Maxims 326 (1874),
  2. See Jon R. Stone, the Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations, 69 (2005).
  3. Supra Note 1, p.330.
  4. Supra Note 1, p.331.
  5. Marriot v. Hampton, 7 T. R. 269, cited in Supra Note 1, p.331.
  6. E.g., Hamlet v. Richardson, 9 Bing. 644, 645 (23 E. C. L. K.) cited in Supra Note 1, p.331.
  7. Todd v. Stewart 1 9 Q. B. 758, 767 (59 E. C. L. R.) cited in Supra Note 1, p.335.
  8. Outram v. Morewood, 3 East 346 cited in Supra Note 1, p.335.
  9. Trevivan v. Lawrence, Salk. 276 cited in Supra Note 1, p.335.
  10. Kinnersley v. Cope, 2 Dougl. 517 cited in Supra Note 1, p.335.
  11. King v. Hoare 13 M. & W. 494 cited in Supra Note 1, p.335.
  12. See Herbert Broom, a Selection of Legal Maxims 217 (1939),
  13. Harrop v. Harrop, three K. B. 386 cited in Ibid.
  14. See Supra Note 13.
  15. Supra Note 14.
  16. Brandon v. Becher, 3 CI. & F. 479 cited in Supra Note 13.
  17. See Shipra Arora, Double Jeopardy - Can an accused be actually punished twice for same offence in India (2010).

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