The many Latin terms in legal jargon: How many do you know?

Source: The post is based on the article “The many Latin terms in legal jargon: How many do you know?” published in Indian Express on 18th December 2022

What is the News?

The Gujarat High Court recently appointed amici curiae in the Morbi bridge collapse case in which it has taken suo motu action. 

What is the meaning of some Latin legal terms used regularly?

Suo motu: It means ‘on its own motion’. High courts and the Supreme Court in India have the constitutional mandate to act on their own to preserve the fundamental rights of individuals or take an action to set a wrong right even though an aggrieved party does not file a petition. This may happen when the court’s attention is drawn to an incident through news reports or any other means. 

Amicus curiae: It literally means ‘friend of the court’. Sometimes the court appoints an advocate as amicus curiae in a case to assist it. An amicus works without any expectation of monetary compensation and being appointed one is an acknowledgement of professional competence and integrity.

Ad hoc: It means ‘for the present matter or situation’. An ad hoc committee is one which is set up to dispose of a particular matter and is wound up once the task is over.

Ex post facto: If someone is punished ex post facto it means that the relevant law came after the crime was committed. So, it means ‘after the fact or event, or retroactive’.

Quid pro quo: It is used to refer to something given in lieu of something received, a fair exchange. Example: The defendant agreed to a written apology and, as quid pro quo, the petitioner withdrew her case.

Status quo: It is often used in cases where courts restore an earlier state of affairs where a change has been carried. Since the condition is the previous one which is to be restored, purists insist that the expression should be status quo ante (the last word stands for ‘before’). However, status quo is popular with headline writers to indicate the idea of preserving without change.

Sine qua non: It is something which is indispensable, a prerequisite. Example: An independent judiciary is a sine qua non of a healthy democracy.

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