Ex turpi causa non oritur actio

“Ex turpi causa non oritur actio”

Literal Meaning: No action arises on an immoral contract.

Origin: From the Latin terminology


According to the above-said maxim, if any person does an unlawful act, the person who suffers the loss just because of such an act has the right to claim remedy against that person in the court to compensate for his loss. This maxim applies not only to tort law but as well as to contract, restitution, property and trusts.  Ex turpi causa non oritur actio, which implies that no action can arise from any illegal act. It is one of the defenses which can exempt the defendant from his liability because the plaintiff has also committed an illegal act. Therefore, this is also known as the “plaintiff a wrongdoer” defense.


A and B agreed to kill C and rob his car. However, both of them while escaping in C’s car after killing him, met with an accident due to the negligence of B (who drove the car) and A was severely injured. Here even though B is guilty of negligence A cannot claim any damages because he suffered this injury as a result of being involved in an unlawful act.

Applicability in Indian Laws

The above said Latin maxim is flexible to be used by advocates for the defense to the defendant. These are called as the general exceptions the maxim applied to different dimensions of laws, instance law of tort, Indian contract Act and Law of Trust. It enables the defendant to escape from its liability even though the act done by him is an illegal or immoral act. Now the question arises why such defenses are to be applied.

Why will a defendant not be held guilty for an illegal act?

According to Lord Mansfield he referred in the case Holman v. Johnson 1775 held that a plaintiff has no liability to claim damages out of an illicit act performed by it, however, this defense is not applied to the defendant but it is applied to prevent the plaintiff from claiming damages out of the act performed by it. It also mentioned that if a plaintiff becomes defendant and vice- versa, then also the suit brought by the plaintiff will be nullified as per rule potior est conditio


The defendant is this means that both the parties are at fault equally hence the defendant is much stronger than the plaintiff.

Case Law: –

In Kamarbai And Ors. vs Badrinarayan, AIR 1977

Here refereeing to the maxim ‘Ex Turpi Causa Non Oritur Actio’ the Bombay High Court held that the plaintiff not only must be prepared now to do what is right and fair, but also must show that his past record in the transaction is clean; for ‘he who has committed inequity, shall not have Equity.’

In I.T.C. Limited vs George Joseph Fernandes,1989, AIR 839,

In this case, the Supreme Court held that it is a settled principle that one who knowingly enters into a contract with an improper object cannot enforce his rights thereunder.

In Pranballav Saha And Anr. vs Sm. Tulsibala Dassi And Anr., AIR 1958.

 the Calcutta High Court held that “Once the court finds that the plaintiff is seeking its assistance to enable him to get the benefit of what is a fraud, the court refuses to assist him. If, as a result of such refusal, the defendant is left in possession of some advantage derived from his own fraud, that is not due to any action on the part of the court.”

Also Read: Alibi – Legal Maxim | Literal Meaning | Origin | Case Law

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