The law assists only those who are vigilant, and not those who sleep over their rights.
The maxim refers to the obligation of individuals to not only be aware of their rights under the law, but also to be vigilant while exercising or using the same. The legal process only benefits those who have been careful enough with their rights, instead of being ignorant. This maxim expands upon through the Limitation Act of 1963, which entails that if the suffered/ aggrieved party does not file a suit for relief within the stipulated period, for the breach of his rights, then it cannot be claimed at a later stage.
Any suit of legal right infringement will automatically be considered invalid if filed beyond the limitation period, prescribed by law. In the practical sense, other than the common civil suit actions, the special legislation on various subject matters specifically provides for a period of limitation. Such a maxim with supporting provisions is primarily to ensure that the legal system provides justice for those who realize legal damage.
Filing an appeal at the High Court, in a civil suit from a lower Court, must be done within 90 days from the date of its decree or order. If X, the aggrieved party, approaches the High Court after the exhaustion of such a period, then the appeal would not be entertained, by application of this maxim.
In the case of Nacinchandra N. Majithia vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors (2000), the Supreme Court made a key observation with respect to the application of this maxim. Given the aphorism that ‘to err, is human’, could practically lead to unintentional situations despite being vigilant, which could attract the commission of an offense. The Courts should not always find means to pull down the shutters of adjudication before a party seeking justice, instead should take measures to entertain all possible cases of grievances, if it is genuine.
In the case of Vanka Radhamanohari v Vanke Venkata Reddy and Ors. [1993 (2) BLJR 875] “An exception to this maxim was observed in this which involved a criminal case of cruelty to a woman under Section 498-A. The Court observed that, given the gravity of the offense committed and with respect to the specific facts and circumstances of this case, the maxim would not be applicable in this case and the case will be admitted in case of offenses relating to cruelty against women.”
This maxim has been written and submitted by Ms. Ayushi Goyal during her course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Ms. Ayushi is a 4th-year law student at Christ University, Bangalore.