Lex non cogit ad impossibilia

Literal Translation

Law does not compel the doing of impossibilities.


This legal maxim is of the latin origin meaning the law does not compel you to do anything vain or impossible. It is a very old maxim that was discussed by Justice Owen in Hughey v. JMS Development, meaning laws do not compel a man to do something he cannot possibly perform. Here, the word “lex” literally means a system of law, “non” means does not, “cogit” means to compel, “ad” means to, and “impossibilia” means impossible.


The court cannot possibly ask a man to get the moon for his wife because he promised it. This act is impossible and hence, “Lex non cogit ad impossibilia”.

Case Law

 State of Rajasthan v.Shamsher Singh (1985 AIR 1082)

The court discussed the maxim “lex non cogit adimpossibilia” or the doctrine of impossibility and held that however mandatory the provision may be, where it is impossible of compliance that would be a sufficient excuse for non-compliance, particularly when it is a question of the time factor.