Lex Prospicit Non Respicit

Lex Prospicit Non Respicit

Literal Meaning

The Law looks forward, not backward.




There are many types of rules guiding ‘how a legislation has to be interpreted, one established rule is that unless a contrary intention appears, legislation is presumed not to be intended to have a retrospective operation’. The idea of backing the rule is that a present law should govern present activities. Law passed today cannot imply to the events of the past. If we do something today, we have done it keeping in mind the law of present and enforced and not tomorrow’s backward adjustment of it.


According to the maxim Lex Prospicit Non Respicit, the law does not deal with past events and issues. As, in a general rule, laws shall have only a prospective effect and must not be applied retroactively in such a way as to apply to pending disputes and cases. The rule is intended to the tendency of retroactive legislation to be unjust, unfair and oppressive on account of its liability to punish individuals for violations of laws which are to yet enacted, unsettle vested rights, which is not constitutional. Let’s discuss the words of legal maxim for better understanding:

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


As was observed in Phillips vs. Eyre [(1870) LR 6 QB 1 ], retrospective legislation is contrary to the general principle that legislation by which the conduct of mankind is to be regulated when introduced for the first time to deal with future acts ought not to change the character of past transactions carried on upon the faith of the then-existing law.

Case Reference

 CIT v. Vatika Township (P) Ltd., 2014

 The Apex Court held that the proviso to Section 113 of the Indian Income Tax Act, 1961 was prospective and not retrospective. In so holding, the Constitution Bench adverted to certain general principles as under: – “Of the various rules guiding how a legislation has to be interpreted, one established rule is that unless a contrary intention appears, a legislation is presumed not to be intended to have a retrospective operation. The idea behind the rule is that a current law should govern current activities.


In Sukhram v. Harbheji, 1969, 3 S.C.R. 752

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, (1995) 2 SCC 630

The court was called upon for the interpretation of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988. Thus, the court overruled Mithilesh Kumari v. Prem Behari Khare, in concluding 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 inquiry would lie as to whether it could be said to be clarificatory or declaratory’.

Also Read: Ex turpi causa non oritur actio

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