Vicarious liability of State - Law of Tort, Notes CLAT Notes | EduRev

Legal Reasoning for CLAT

CLAT : Vicarious liability of State - Law of Tort, Notes CLAT Notes | EduRev

The document Vicarious liability of State - Law of Tort, Notes CLAT Notes | EduRev is a part of the CLAT Course Legal Reasoning for CLAT.
All you need of CLAT at this link: CLAT

Sovereign and Non sovereign function 

Union of India was driven in the exercise of sovereign function so the state is immune from liability. The state is not liable for the acts of its servants when such acts are committed without the authority of law. They should be held liable for the improper exercise or abuse of discretion.

SOVEREIGN FUNCTION (State Not Liable) - Those actions from the state for which it is not answerable before a court of law. e.g. defense of a country, raising and maintaining armed forces, making peace in retaining territory, taxation, police function including maintenance of law and order, legislative functions, etc.

1) Performance of statutory duty
2) Maintenance of public path
3) Maintenance of military road
4) Training for defence
5) Commandeering goods during the war
6) Arrest and detention
7) Maintenance of national highways
8) Keeping stole and goods in public Malkhana
9) Collection of revenue

1) An accident caused by a driver of PWD, while carrying materials for building a road bridge.
2) Doctor in a govt. hospital performing sterilization operation of a lady patient, left a mob inside her abdomen.
3) Taking ailing children to a primary health centre is not a sovereign function
4) Famine relief

Negligence is the breach of a duty caused by the omission to do something which a reasonable man would do or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.
In other sense negligence is a legal duty to exercise due care on the part of the party complained of towards the party complaining the former’s conduct within the scope of the duty, breach of the said duty and consequential damage. In tort, it is the number of damages incurred which is
determinative of the extent of liability in tort but in criminal law, it is not the number of damages but the amount and degree of the negligence that is determinative of liability.

Negligence has two meanings in the law of torts:-
1. Negligence as a mode of committing certain torts, e.g. negligently or carelessly committing a trespass, nuisance or defamation

2. In other sense, it means conduct which creates a risk of causing damage rather than a state of mind.


Vicarious liability of State - Law of Tort, Notes CLAT Notes | EduRevElements of negligence 

1. that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
2. the defendant made a breach of that duty
3. the plaintiff suffered damage as a consequence thereof. Whether the defendant owes a duty of the plaintiff or not depends on reasonable foreseeability of the injury to the plaintiff. 4. If at the time of the act or omission, the defendant could reasonably foresee injury to the plaintiff, he owes a duty to prevent that injury and failure to do that makes him liable. The duty of care means a legal duty rather than a mere mortal, religious or social duty.

For example in a leading case:- A purchased a bottle of ginger beer from a retailer for his lady friend. Some of the contents were poured in a tumbler and she consumed the same. When the remaining contents of the bottle were poured into her tumblr, the decomposed body of a snail floated out with her ginger beer. An action against the manufacturer for damage was brought by the lady. It was held that the manufacturer owed her a duty to take care that the bottle did not cantain any noxious matter and that he would be liable on the breach of the duty.

Example:- The defendants were the committee and members of a cricket club. A batsman hit a ball and the ball went over a fence seven feet high and seventeen feet above the cricket pitch & injured the plaintiff on the adjoining highway. The cricket from which the ball was hit was about 78 yards from the fence and 100 yards away from the plaintiff. The ground had been used for about 90 yrs & during the last 30 years, the ball had been hit in the highway on about six occasions but no one had been injured. It was held that the defendants were not liable because the chance of a person ever being struck even in a long period of years was very small.

Rules of strict and absolute liability
There are situations when a person may be liable for some harm even though he is not negligent in causing the same or there is no intention to cause her harm or sometimes he may even have made some positive efforts to avert the same. In other words, sometimes her law recognizes no-fault liability or rules of strict liability or her rule of absolute liability.

According to the rule, if a person brings on his land and keeps here any dangerous thing i.e. a thing which is likely to do mischief if it escapes even though he had not been negligent in keeping it here. (held in the Rylands is Fletcher care)

Trespass to land means interference with the possession of land without lawful justification. Trespass could be committed either by a person himself entering the land of another person or doing her same through the same material object e.g. throwing of stones on another person's land, driving nails into the wall. Allowing cattle to stray on another person's land is also a trespass. If a person, who is allowed to sit in a drawing room enters the bedroom without any justification, the entry into the bedroom is a trespass. When the occupies of land acquiesces in frequent acts of trespass. The visitors there may no longer remain tresspasess. Trespass is a wrong against possession rather than ownership therefore a person in actual possession can bring an action even though, against the true owner, his possession was wrongful.

An occupier of premises or of other structures like cars, ships, aeroplanes or lifts Covers an obligation to the persons who enter those premises or structures in respect of their personal safety and the safety of their property hereof. The occupier's obligation will be considered under the following three heads: -
1) Obligation towards lawful visitors
2) Obligation towards trespassers
3) Obligation towards children

1) Obligation towards lawful visitors:
Common law classified the lawful visitors into two categories - invitees and licensees and laid separate rules for obligations towards each one of them.
When the occupier of the premises and the visitors had a common interest or the occupier had an interest in the visit the visitor was known as an invitee. When occupier had no such interest the visitor was known as a license. In other words, a license is a person who enters the premises with the express or implied in case of invitee the occupiers is supposed to take reasonable care to prevent any damage to the invitee from any unusual danger to his premises which he knew or ought to have known.

For example:- A, who was a gas filter, entered the B's premises for testing certain gas fittings there. While doing so he fell from an unfenced opening on the upper floor and was injured. A, being an invitee on those premises B was held liable for the inquiry caused to him.

In case of a licensee, She owes a duty to give due warning of any latest defect or canceled danger in her premises of which he was aware. He would have no liability for her caused by dangers not known to him.

For example:- A went to stay with her sister in a building entered by B and let out to her sister's husband. The defendants were in possession of her common staircase. Owing to meaning way of the cement; there was a depression in one of the stairs, the plaintiffs' heel was caught in the depression. She fell from there and got injured. In an action against the defendant, it was held that the plaintiff her only for a canceled danger. In this case, her injury to her plaintiff was due to the danger which was obvious and could have been observed her, her defendants could not be made liable for her same.

2) Obligation towards trespasses.
An occupier is not supposed to make his premises quite safe for the trespasses. At the same time the occupier cannot be permitted to deliberately cause harm to him, nor can he be permitted to engage in some dangers activity in reckless disregard of the presence of the trespasses on his premises.

For example:- if a burglar gets injured by falling from my unrepaired stairs. I would not be liable towards him. However, if I throw stones upon him or if a recklessly disregarded the presence of a beggar on my premises and shoot and injure the beggar, I would be liable. I can take reasonable steps to guard my premises against burglars, such as by the use of spikes or broken pieces of glass on the top of the wall but the use of a trap or spring guns would be actionable.

In a leading case:- The defendant laid some live electric wire on his land without any visible warning. The plaintiff who was passing thought that land at 10 p.m. to reach the land under his own cultivation. Could not observe the wire, on there was no light in the area. He came in contact with the nine and was injured.

It was held that it is the duty of the land owner to make it known if he has to lay a live wire on a short offense and as he failed to do so, he was liable for the damaged caused thereby.

Obligation towards children 

An occupier must be prepared for the children to be less careful their adults and hence he must guard the child visitors even against such dangers from which the adults don't need any protection.

For example in a leading case:- The defendants controlled a public park. A child of 7 years picked up and ate some attractive looking perries on a shrub in the park and died because the perries were poisons. The perries were obviously an allurement for the children but the defendants had not given sufficient warning intelligible to the children of the deadly character of the perries. Here, in an action by the father of the deceases child, the defendants were held liable.

Nuisance means an unlawful interference with a person's use or enjoyment of land. It includes interference with comfort, health, and safety of the other. Nuisance is of two types:-
1) Public Nuisance
2) Private Nuisance
Public nuisance is interference with the right of the public in general and is punishable as an offense. e.g. obstructing a public way by digging a trench or constructing a structure on it are examples of public nuisance.
A public nuisance also becomes a private nuisance so far as the person suffering special damage is concerned. Special damage in this context means damage caused to a party in contradiction to the public at large.

For example in a leading case:- The defendant created a brick grinding machine adjoining the premises of the plaintiff, who was a medical practitioner. The brick grinding machine generated dust which polluted the atmosphere. The dust entered the consulting chamber of the plaintiff and caused physical inconvenience to him. It was held that special damages to the plaintiff had been proved and a permanent injunction was issued against the defendant restraining him from running his brick grinding machine there.

Private nuisance is a civil wrong or tort. The essentials of a tort of nuisance are-
1) unreasonable interference
2) interference with the use of enjoyment of land
or personal discomfort
3) Damage

Example:- Gur Prasad and another filed a suit against Radhey Shyam and others for a permanent injunction to restrain them from installing and running a flour mill in their premises. It was alleged that the said mill would cause a nuisance to the plaintiffs, who were occupying the first-floor portion of the same premises inasmuch as the plaintiffs would base their peace an account of ratting noise of the flour mill and hereby their health would also be adversely affected. It was held that substantial addition to the noise in a noisy locality by the running of the impugned machines, serious interference with the physical comfort of the plaintiffs and as such it amounted to nuisance.

It some noises which don't disturb or among an ordinary person but disturb only the plaintiff in his work or sleep due to his over sensitiveness, it is no nuisance against the plaintiff.
Nuisance is generally a confirming wrong. A constant noise, smell or vibration is a nuisance.

Defamation means an attack on a persons's reputation.
It tends to lower the image of a person in society.
Defamation consists of both libel and slander. Libel is a defamatory statement in a permanent form, for example, by written words, by pictures, by cinema film etc. Slander is the publication of a defamatory statement in a transient form such as spoken words or gestures. In Indian law, defamations are both a root as well as a crime. To constitute a tort of defamation following are the essential elements -
1) The words spoken or written must be defamatory i.e. which tends to lower a person in the estimation of right-thinking members of the society.
2) The defamatory words or statement should directly or indirectly refer to the person defamed.
3) The statement must be published by a medium. Publication means making the defamatory matter known to some person other there plaintiffs.

Therefore if a person abuses another person in private it may not be defamation but if a third person is standing by, the same words will constitute to be defamatory words.
Further, a defamatory statement may be direct statement prima facie defamatory or it may be an innuendo. Innuendo is those words which appear innocent but contain some secondary or latent or hidden meaning which is defamatory. The essence of defamation is an injury to a person's character or repudiation.

For example: In a leading case - There was a publication of a statement in a local daily in Jodhpur on 18.12.77 that Manjulata went out of her house and the earlier night at 11 p.m. on the pretext of attending night classes and ran away with a boy named Kamlesh. She belonged to a well-educated family and was herself also a student of B.A. class. She was 17 years of age. The news item was untrue and had been published with utter irresponsibility and without any justification. Such publication had resulted in her being ridiculed and affected her marriage prospects. The statement being defamatory. The defendants were held liable.

Defamation of a class of persons

When the words refer to a group of individuals or a class of persons, no member of that group or class can sue under he can prove that the words could reasonably be considered to be referring to him. Thus, if a man wrote that all lawyers were thieves, no particular lawyer could sue him under there was something to point to her particular individual.

For example in a leading case - The appellant was the member of a party, the membership of which was about two thousand, out of which twenty-four members including the plaintiff were in England, The respondents published a statement of the party as a whole. Some of the appellant friends considered the article to be referring to him. If was, however, held that since the article referred to such a big class, most of the members of which were resident abroad, it could not reasonably be considered to be referring to the appellant and the respondents were not liable.

Defenses to defamation
The defenses to an action for defamation are
1) Justification or truth
2) Fair comment
3) Privilege, which may be either absolute or qualified
In a civil action for defamation, the truth of the defamatory matter is a complete defense. The defense is available even through the publication is made maliciously. If the statement is substantially true but incorrect in respect of certain minor particulars, the defense will still be available.

Example:- In a leading English case - the plaintiff had been sentenced to a fine of pond 1 or 14 days imprisonment in the alternative, for traveling on a train without an appropriate ticket. The defendants published a notice stating that the plaintiff had been sentenced to a fine of pond 1 or three weeks imprisonment in the alterative. Held, the defendants were not liable, the statement being substantially accurate.

Fair comment Making a fair comment on matters of public interest is a defense to an action for
defamation. Whether a statement is a fact or a comment, defends on the language used or the context in which that is stated.
Example - A says of a book published by Z - 'Z's book is foolish, Z's book is indecent, Z must be a man of impure mind.' There are only comments based on Z's book and A will be protected if he has said that in good faith. But if A says - " I am not surprised that Z's book is foolish and indecent, he is a weak man & libertine." It is not a comment on Z's book but is rather a statement of fact and the and the defense of fair comment cannot be pleaded in such a case.

There are certain occasions when the law recognizes that the right of free speech outweighs the plaintiff's right to reputation: the law treats such occasions to be privileged and a defamatory statement made on such occasions is not actionable.

Privilege is of two kinds- absolute privilege and qualified privilege.
Parliamentary proceedings, Judicial proceedings and state communications, (where a statement made by one officer of the state to another in the course of official duty is absolutely privileged) are examples of absolute privilege whereas in case of qualified privilege, it is available either when the statement is made in discharge of a duty or protection of an interest or the publication is in the form of report of parliamentary, judicial or other public proceedings.

1) Ashby v. White (Injuria sine damno)
Facts. Ashby (Plaintiff) was not allowed to exercise his right to vote, by the actions of an official. He filed a suit that he has suffered an ‘injury’ to his right though the candidate he wanted to vote for had actually won the election.

Held. The court held that a plaintiff ought to be allowed to vote and exercise his right to vote and denial of that right means that he has been injured because the right to vote is a common law right. Thus, an obstruction of that right gives rise to a cause of action.

2) Gloucester Grammar School  Case
The defendant set up a rival school next to that of the plaintiff. The students of plaintiff’s school shifted to the school of the defendant as he was charging lesser fees. The plaintiff sued the defendant for starting the school in the vicinity such as causing loss to the plaintiff. It was held that no suit could lie, because the establishment of the school does not amount to infringement of the right of the plaintiff and the defendant has every right to start a similar business and as such, there is no ground for action, whatever damage it may cause.

3) Bhim Singh vs State of J & K:
An MLA of the J&K. Assembly, the plaintiff was wrongfully arrested and detained by the police, while he was proceeding to the assembly. Further, he was not produced before the magistrate within the stipulated period. This act was a violation of both his fundamental and legal right. It was held that the state was liable to pay compensation as the private right of the plaintiff was infringed upon by the state.

4) Hall vs Brooklands Auto Racing Club:
If a person undertakes a participates in function which he knows can result in an injury, then the defendant is not liable if the plaintiff actually suffers injury. The plaintiff went to see as a spectator a motorcar race. Due to a collision between two racing cars, one of it rammed into the spectator's stand and injured the plaintiff. The court held that the organizers were not liable, as the plaintiff impliedly took the risk of such injury.

5) Stanley vs Powell:
One of the members of a shooting party accidentally shot at another member, mistaking his movement for that of an animal. The court held that the injury was an accident and the defendant was not liable to pay the compensation as the plaintiff was willfully participating in the action fully aware of the dangers involved in it.

6) State Bank of India vs Shyama Devi:
The respondent, Mrs. Shyama Devi, opened a savings account with the Imperial Bank of India at its Allahabad branch. The respondents gave some cash and cheque to one Kapil Deo Shukla, who was a friend of the respondent's husband and employed in the said bank, for being deposited in her account. The said payments were made to Kapil Deo Shukla in his capacity as the respondent's husband's friend. No receipt or voucher was obtained indicating the said deposit. The bank's servant, instead of making the deposits in the respondent's account, got the cheque encashed and misappropriated the amount, He, however, made false entries in the respondent's Passbook and the bank's ledgers outside the course of employment and the appellant bank could not be made liable for the fraud committed by its servant.

7) Beard vs London General Omnibus Co.:
The driver of a bus had gone to have his dinner, leaving the bus in the custody of the conductor who decided to turn the bus to keep it in readiness for the return journey. While doing so, he negligently knocked down a passerby. Held, the master was not liable, as the conductor acted outside the course of his employment.
( In this case, the master is not liable because his driver did not cause the mishap, but action could be brought against the conductor.)

8) Lloyd vs Grace Smith & Co.:
Ms. Lloyds approached M/s Grace Smith & Co. to seek investment-related advice. The clerk who attended upon her asked her to sell her properties and then reinvest the proceeds. Ms. Lloyd signed certain documents, which were supposed to be the sale deed. Actually, it turned out to be a gift deed in favor of the clerk. The clerk disposed of the property and misappropriated the funds. It was held that the company was liable for the fraudulent acts of the clerk.

9) Limpus vs London General Omnibus:
The owner of a bus had given express instructions to his driver not to overtake or race with other vehicles. The bus driver defying the instructions overtook another bus, and in the process caused an accident. However, the bus owner was held liable for the negligence was caused by the driver in the course of his employment.

10) The state of Rajasthan vs Vidyawati:
In this case, a government vehicle, which was driven rashly and negligently by the car driver, who was an employee of the state government, knocked down the plaintiff's husbands. In an action against the State of Rajasthan, the court held the state liable. On an appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the above sentence expressed by the Rajasthan High Court.

11) Kasturilal vs the State of UP:
One of the partners of a firm of jewelers had gone to Meerut, to sell gold and silver. While walking through the market with his goods, he was intercepted and arrested by the police on grounds of suspicion that he was in possession of stolen goods. He was kept in the police lock-up and his goods were kept in the police custody. In the meanwhile, Kasturilal was released but the goods could not be returned, as the head constable had run away with them. In a suit brought against the State of UP for damages, it was held that the state was not liable, for the loss had occurred while the government was discharging a sovereign function (police function).

12) Rylands vs Fletcher:
The owner of a mill, employed a contractor to construct a reservoir on his land to provide water to his mill. While digging, the contractor failed to notice some disused shafts beneath the ground and as such, did not block them up. Thereafter, he filled the reservoir with water. That night, the water broke through some of the shafts and flooded the neighbor Y's mine. The court held that X was liable for the damage caused to Y, even though the damage could not be attributed to his negligence.

13) Donoghue vs Stevenson:
A man bought a bottle of ginger beer for his girlfriend manufactured by the defendant. The lady drank the contents of the bottle directly. Later, she poured the remaining contents into a glass. To her utter shock, she noticed that a dead snail popping out of the bottle.She fainted and fell ill, as she had already
consumed a portion of the drink. It was held that the manufacturer was liable to the lady for 'negligence'


Offer running on EduRev: Apply code STAYHOME200 to get INR 200 off on our premium plan EduRev Infinity!

Related Searches



Previous Year Questions with Solutions


Notes CLAT Notes | EduRev


Extra Questions


mock tests for examination


Sample Paper






study material


Semester Notes


Important questions


shortcuts and tricks


Notes CLAT Notes | EduRev






Vicarious liability of State - Law of Tort


video lectures


past year papers


Viva Questions


Notes CLAT Notes | EduRev


practice quizzes


Objective type Questions




Vicarious liability of State - Law of Tort


Vicarious liability of State - Law of Tort