Let Justice Be Done, Though The Heavens Should Fall (Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The above Latin maxim is often quoted to stress the importance of having justice to be done, as “fiat justitia” means “let justice be done” and it further complimented with “ruat coelum” which means “though the heaven should fall” which is to show the importance of justice to be done disregard of what ever consequence that might await later.

The story behind the maxim is far more interesting, as Lord Denning told us in his book “The Family Story”. The story goes as someone named PISO passed a death sentence on a soldier for the offence of murdering a person named GAIUS. He ordered a CENTURION (Rome army officer) to execute the guilty found soldier. When the soldier was about to be executed, GAIUS came forward himself and he happened to be alive and well. The CENTURION reported the news to PISO.

PISO instead of discharging the innocent soldier, passed death sentence unto GAIUS and the CENTURION, while maintaining the death sentence on the soldier.

The reason of sentencing the all three to death is because the soldier had already been sentenced, the CENTURION is because he disobeyed the initial order and GAIUS for being the cause of death of two innocent men. PISO then gave excuse “Fiat Justitia, Ruat Coelum-let justice be done, though the heaven shall fall”.

It can be seen that the maxim was originally used as an excuse for a grave injustice and outrages case that had taken place, yet it is often be quoted when people want to emphasis the grave need of having justice to be done.

The above maxim has been quoted by our court in several cases, namely in Merdeka University Berhad v Government of Malaysia [1981] 2 MLJ 356, State Of Kelantan v The Government Of The Federation Of Malaya [1963] MLJ 355 and Asia Pacific Parcel Tankers v The Owners of the Ship 'Normar Splendour' [1999] 6 MLJ 652.


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