Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

Now for Then




According to this maxim, a court or party to a divorce forgets to file the papers necessary to obtain the final decree (after the interlocutory judgment has been granted), and the result is that the divorce never becomes final. If the oversight presents a problem wherein one party has already remarried, or any other aspect, then the court may agree to issue a nunc pro tunc order, which grants the final divorce retroactive to the earlier date.

In general, it is a doctrine that permits a court to change records so that they show what actually happened. This might refer to changing back to an earlier date of an order, judgment, or filing of a document for ‘now for then’. Such retroactive re-dating requires a court order that can be obtained by demonstrating that the earlier date would have been legal and that there has been an error, accidental omission, or neglect that has caused a problem or inconvenience that can be healed. The judge will often grant ex parte the nunc pro tunc order.

The maxim can be referred to express that a thing is done at one time which ought to have been performed at another. Leave of court must be obtained to do things nunc pro tunc, and this is granted to answer the purposes of justice, but never to do injustice. A judgment nunc pro tunc can be entered only when the delay has arisen from the act of the court.


If a written record of the judgment of a trial court fails to read the judgment accurately as the court made it, the court shall have the inherent right to amend the record at a later date to represent what occurred at the trial. As amended, from the time of the original ruling, the ruling would be granted legal force so that the mistake would not affect or damage any party. The object of nunc pro tunc is to correct errors or omissions in order to achieve earlier court expected outcomes.

Case Laws

In Jang Singh Vs Brij Lal & Ors., AIR 1966 SC 1631: 1964 (2) SCR 145, in view of the mistake of the District Court which needed to be righted, Supreme Court relegated the parties to the position they occupied when the error was committed by the Court, same said the error was rectified by Supreme Court nunc pro tunc.

In A.R. Antulay Vs R.S. Nayak & Ors., MANU/SC/0002/1988: AIR 1988 SC 1531, the maxim nunc-pro-tunc was held to mean that if owing to the delay in what the court should, otherwise, have done earlier but done later, a party suffers owing to events occurring in the interregnum, the Court has the power to remedy it. The area of operation of the maxim was, generally, held to be procedural. Errors in judicial findings, either of facts or law or operative decisions consciously arrived at as a part of the judicial-exercise cannot be interfered with by resort to this maxim.

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