Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

“Towards All” Or “Towards Everyone”




The maxim in legal terms means obligations and rights towards all. It is a kind of implied duty of any person or state also to not infringe the rights of anyone by performing his duty or during exercising his rights. In bifurcation erga means “towards” and omnes means “all”. this right is different from the contractual rights because erga omnes rights are enforceable against all and the latter is enforceable against the contracting parties only.


When the state has discriminated against violating the fundamental rights varying from article 14 to article 32. It is said that states have erga omnes the citizens i.e. the state have obligations towards paying respect to the fundamental rights of every citizen.

For e.g. property is an erga omnes thing which means that anybody having property will have legally enforceable rights in that property towards all infringing on his rights.

Case Laws

Barcelona Traction Case (Spain vs. Belgium)

Barcelona traction was a company in Canada and supplied electricity in Spain. There were investors who were non-Spanish and during the civil war, the Spanish government did not allow the company to pay the interest due to the investors. There was a dispute between Canada and Spain for treaty violations. In its judgment the international court of justice gave rise to the concept of erga omnes in the international law, the judgment the court said about erga omnes obligation of a state towards the international community as a whole and in the protection of those all states have erga omnes right, and erga omnes obligation of a state towards another state.

The court in Portugal vs. Australia where there was an issue pertaining to the territory of East Timor between Portugal who was having it earlier and presently Australia took over it from Indonesia. The ICJ went on to enforce the erga omnes obligation of the state towards the principle of self-determination by which people freely determine their political status.

In Ethiopia vs. South Africathe case pertaining to the issue of membership of league of nations, the court has laid the erga omnes obligation of outlawing of acts of aggression.  All members in their international relations shall refrain from using force or threat against any other state.

In Sree Swamy Prakash Ashramam vs. G. Anandvalli Amma & Ors. where the issue was for the right to get the way by easement rights, the apex court by virtue of Indian easement act has laid down that the person has erga omnes right to get the way out of easement.

In the case ofM.C Mehta vs. Union of India which is the oleum gas leak case in the Shriram fertilizers Delhi, the supreme court has carved out the polluter pays principle and forced erga omnes obligations for protecting the environment.

This maxim has been written and submitted by Mr. Nikhil Punshi during his course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Mr. Nikhil is a third-year law student at the Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.

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