Legal Maxim

Home » Cuius Est Solum, Eius Est Usque Ad Coelum Et Ad Inferos

Literal meaning

Whoever’s is the soil, it is theirs all the way to Heaven and all the way to Hell

Abbreviated form

ad coelum




The maxim is based on the principle that governs the English property laws and solves the question regarding the extent to which one may be able to exert rights on a piece of immovable property in a particular land.

The underlying principle of the maxim relates to defining the extent to which an individual enjoyed their property rights on the land. It simply means that the property holders have rights to not only to the plot of land itself but also the air above and (in the broader formulation) the ground below. In contemporary law, this principle is still accepted in limited form, and the rights are divided into air rights above and subsurface rights below. Property title includes the space immediately above and below the ground – preventing overhanging parts of neighboring buildings, but does not have the rights to control flights far above the ground or in space nor entitles the right to things deep underneath the ground.

The underlying principle of the maxim, enables the owner of a property to deal with the property in a manner pleasing to the owner, he may sell it or lease it to some other or he may sue some other for trespass or harm to his property. These rights are not limited to encroachment itself, but also extends to boundaries of the building or property so established. The Transfer of Property Act and Intellectual Property Rights are certain legal frameworks where the rights of property holders are protected.

In English law, immovable property is normally interchangeably referred to as an estate. It clearly highlights lands as including the surface as well as the minerals underneath the land among many others. The common law has tried to develop several tests that may be used in identifying fixtures from fittings and decide if fixtures and fittings are a part of the land under the meaning of property. Proprietary rights govern one’s ability to use and enjoy both lands they possess and land physically possessed by others, however, subject to certain reasonable restrictions. These rights are entrusted within the land itself and are capable of surviving multiple separate ownerships as the land changes hands several times.

The property law or land law is closely interlinked and also includes other branches of Law such as Tort, Contract, Aviation law as well as Human rights law.

A person may use their land as they please but they cannot do so in a way that disturbs their neighbor’s enjoyment of their property, unreasonably or cause damage.

The law of tort, the law of contract, and Human Rights law all work in protecting the rights of the property holder as well as potential victims. The tort law ensures the protection by virtue of provisions like trespass and private nuisance. Similarly, the Law of Contract envisages the rights by means of acts and sections relating to Breach of contract, remedies for breach, easement contracts are some many others. The human right laws talk about how the right to property is a right in personem and how the right of enjoyment of one’s property a basic human right. Property is considered one of the basic rights under the UN Charter on Human Rights.


Suppose, three people own neighboring plots of land. The owners of the plots on either side want to build a bridge over the middle plot connecting their two properties. Although the bridge would never touch the soil of the owner in the middle, the principle of cuius est solum would allow the middle owner to impose a restriction on its construction or demand payment for the right to do so.

Likewise, if a person wishes to perform mining activity under somebody’s land, then he would have to get permission from the owner to do so, even if the mine entrance is on neighboring land.

Case laws

  • Kelsen v. Imperial Tobacco Co. [1957] 2 QB 334

In this case, the rights of landowners to the airspace immediately over their land were decided upon. The case was regarding a sign erected on a building that overhung the plaintiff’s property, committed the tort of trespass. Although no harm or nuisance was caused by it. An injunction was granted to the plaintiff requiring the sign to be removed.

Subsequently, the right of landowners to prevent the ‘overflying’ without their permission of the large crane jibs used in construction was also been affirmed.

In the above-mentioned case it was iterated that the principle of the legal maxim Cuius Est Solum, Eius Est Usque Ad Coelum Et Ad Inferos, vested a person with absolute rights over one’s property and also protected those rights.
At the same time, it was observed that the right did not extend to more than what was ‘necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land and structures upon it’.

  • Anchor Brewhouse Developments v Berkley House Ltd [1987] EGLR 172

In this case, the defendant’s crane over sailed on to the claimant’s airspace above their land on a regular basis during the construction of a housing development. No damage was caused. The claimant was entitled to an injunction to prevent the trespass since trespass is actionable per se. Here again, the importance of the said maxim was highlighted.

This Maxim has been written and submitted by Ms. Mansi Batra during her course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Ms. Mansi is a third-year law student at the Fairfield Institute of Management and Technology, Kapashera, New Delhi.

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