Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

By means of menaces or threats




When a person is forced to enter into a contract by threats or menaces, it can be called per minas. When a person fears death or any mayhem on not acting according to the threat, the person may act as instructed. Nevertheless, the acts performed in compulsion may be changed by the person afterward. The courts only require that the individual was compelled to act by threat and that the threat was not one that could have been resolved by a strong and fair man’s mind and will.

In other words, when another person persuades someone, by uttering threats, to commit a criminal act which he would not have committed but for the threats, a man acts under pressure, it is referred to as Per Minas. Threats are threats of personal abuse aimed either at himself or at others with whom he has a near relationship with his family. Threats to harm a stranger or even anyone, such as a sovereign, who is under a public obligation to protect the victim, are not included.

Case Laws

In Brown v. Pierce, 74 US 205 (1868), the honorable court mentioned that Text-writers usually divide the subject into two classes, namely, duress per minas and duress of imprisonment, and that classification was uniformly adopted in the early history of the common law, and is generally preserved in the decisions of the English courts to the present time. And Second class, duress per minas as defined at common law, is where the party enters into a contract (1) For fear of loss of life; (2) For fear of loss of limb; (3) For fear of mayhem; (4) For fear of imprisonment; and many modern decisions of the courts of that country still restrict the operations of the rule within those limits.

In Nandini Satpathy vs Dani (P.L), 1978 AIR 1025, 1978 SCR (3) 608, the court mentioned that ‘Duress is where a man is compelled to do an act by injury, beating, or unlawful imprisonment (sometimes called duress in a strict sense) or by the threat of being killed, suffering some grievous bodily harm, or being unlawfully imprisoned (sometimes called menace, or duress per minas). Duress also includes threatening, beating, or imprisonment of the wife, parent, or child of a person.

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