Judiciary Exams Exam  >  Judiciary Exams Notes  >  Civil Law for Judiciary Exams  >  Vicarious Liability of State in India

Vicarious Liability of State in India | Civil Law for Judiciary Exams PDF Download

Introduction

Vicarious liability pertains to situations where one individual bears responsibility for the actions of others. In cases of vicarious liability, both the person directing the action and the one carrying it out share liability. Consequently, employers are held vicariously liable for the wrongful acts committed by their employees within the scope of employment. Examples of such liability include the responsibility of a principal for the torts of their agent, partners for each other's torts, masters for the torts of their servants, and the liability of the State or Administration.

Constituents of Vicarious Liability

  • Requirement of a Specific Relationship: There needs to be a particular relationship between the parties involved.
  • Connection between Wrongful Act and Relationship: The wrongful act must be linked to the established relationship.
  • Occurrence within the Scope of Employment: The wrongful act should have taken place during the course of employment.

Vicarious Liability of the State

The concept of vicarious liability of the state, often synonymous with administration, government, or state, pertains to the extent to which the administration should be held accountable for the wrongful acts committed by its employees. This issue is particularly intricate in developing nations where state involvement in various activities is expanding. The liability of the government in tort is primarily guided by public law principles inherited from British Common law and constitutional provisions. The foundation of vicarious liability of the state for the torts committed by its employees is rooted in three fundamental principles:

  • Respondeat superior (let the principal be liable): This principle implies that the state or government should bear the legal responsibility for the actions of its employees while they are performing their official duties.
  • Quifacit per alium facit per se (he who acts through another does it himself): According to this concept, when an individual acts on behalf of another, it is as if the individual himself is performing the action.
  • Socialization of Compensation: This principle underscores the idea that the burden of compensating for damages caused by the state's employees should be collectively shared by society rather than falling solely on the victim.

Vicarious Liability of State in India

  • The liability of the State as outlined in Article 300 of the Constitution allows the Government of India and the Government of a State to sue or be sued in their respective names. This provision is subject to certain conditions set forth by Acts of Parliament or State Legislatures.
  • To comprehend the liability framework of present-day administration, it is crucial to explore the historical liability of the East India Company, as contemporary liability traces back to its precedents.
  • Initially a commercial entity, the East India Company transitioned into a sovereign authority over time. This shift marked the distinction between sovereign and non-sovereign functions within the Company.

State Liability

  • In English Common Law, the principle of "The King can do no wrong" historically shielded the King from liability for the actions of his servants. However, legislative changes like the Crown Proceedings Act altered this stance, making the Crown liable for torts committed by its servants.
  • Similar legal transformations occurred in the United States with acts like the Federal Torts Claims Act, 1946, which delineated the state's liability for the actions of its employees.
  • In ancient India, the rule of law applied uniformly to all individuals, including the king, emphasizing equality before the law. The king's duties involved safeguarding the populace, dispensing justice, and upholding social order.
  • In medieval India, officers were held personally accountable for their actions, showcasing a semblance of equality between rulers and subjects. Compensation for wrongs committed by public officials was often borne by the state treasury.
  • Under present Indian laws, the vicarious liability of the state is defined in Article 300(1) of the Constitution, with roots tracing back to historical legal frameworks like the Government of India Acts of the past.

Sovereign Functions

  • Sovereign functions denote actions of the state that are immune from judicial review, such as national defense, foreign affairs, and territorial governance. These functions fall outside the purview of ordinary civil courts due to their political and sovereign nature.
  • In legal cases like N. Nagendra Rao v. State of AP, the distinction between sovereign and non-sovereign functions was deliberated upon. The court emphasized that the nature of the power wielded by the state determines its accountability and jurisdiction.
  • Legislative supremacy and executive authority under the Constitution empower the state to enact laws and implement policies. While the validity of laws can be challenged, the state's actions in legislative and executive realms are shielded from tort claims for the greater public interest.

These bullet points provide a detailed and simplified overview of the vicarious liability of the state in India, covering historical contexts, legal transformations, and the delineation of sovereign functions.

Question for Vicarious Liability of State in India
Try yourself:
What is the requirement for vicarious liability to exist?
View Solution

Pre-Constitution Judicial Decisions Relating to Vicarious Liability of State

Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company v Secretary

  • The case of P. & O. Steam Navigation Co. v. Secretary of State in the Supreme Court of Calcutta marked a significant point in understanding the liability of the Government in tort cases.
  • The judgment emphasized that the State or East India Company would not be held liable if actions were taken in the exercise of sovereign functions, distinguishing between sovereign and non-sovereign functions for vicarious liability purposes.
  • For instance, if a public servant committed a tort while carrying out sovereign functions like hostilities, the Government would not be held accountable.

Secretary of State v. Hari Bhanji

  • In this case, the Madras High Court clarified that State immunity extended only to acts of the State.
  • It was described that acts of the State, performed under the sanction of municipal law and with conferred legal powers, fell under State immunity.
  • The court highlighted that the Government might not be liable for actions related to public safety, even if they weren't direct acts of the State.

Reiteration of Views

  • Ross v. Secretary of State
  • Kishanchand v. Secretary of State

Special Case

  • Secretary of State v. Cockraft: In this instance, the responsibility for making or repairing a military road was considered a sovereign function, absolving the Government from liability in a negligence case involving a carriage accident.
  • Application of Sovereign Functions: Acts done in the exercise of sovereign power, under legal sanction, are shielded by State immunity.
  • Examples include situations where the Government is not held accountable for actions related to public safety or military operations.

Post-Constitution Judicial Decisions Relating to Vicarious Liability of State

State of Rajasthan v. Vidyawati

  • The case involved a suit for damages caused by an employee (driver) of the State (Collector of Udaipur).
  • The central question was whether the State could be held liable for the wrongful actions of its employee.
  • The Court determined that the State's liability for the actions of its employee within the scope of employment was akin to that of any other employer.

Kasturilal v. State of UP

  • This case revolved around an incident where the plaintiff was wrongly arrested by police officers.
  • Despite negligence by the police officers in handling the plaintiff's seized property, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of UP.
  • The Court's decision was based on the grounds that the actions were performed under statutory and sovereign powers.
  • It was highlighted that the officers' actions fell under sovereign functions, such as the power to arrest, search, and seize property, granted by law.

Conclusion

  • In conclusion, the cases discussed primarily focus on holding the State accountable through the vicarious liability of the State, rather than targeting the government directly. When it comes to the government, it can assert that the statutory authority is neither answerable nor subordinate to it. Consequently, the government cannot be held responsible for the consequences resulting from an erroneous order made by a statutory authority.
  • On the other hand, the State lacks such a defense since it enacts the statute through the Legislature. The appointment of the authority is either mandated by the statute itself or authorized by the statute. In such cases, the actions of the statutory authority are deemed to be on behalf of the State, leading to the State's liability.
  • The State's liability for the actions or oversights of statutory authorities only arises when the authority acts beyond their legal jurisdiction while ostensibly operating under the conferred legal authority. If the act or omission causing harm falls outside the scope of statutory protection, if any, specified in such enactments, the State becomes accountable. This principle is formulated to ensure that an action conducted under a statute and in accordance with it does not amount to a tort, as emphasized by the Supreme Court in the case of Martin Burn Ltd. vs. Calcutta Corporation. The Court affirmed that a result stemming from a statutory provision is never considered harmful.

Question for Vicarious Liability of State in India
Try yourself:
In the case of P. & O. Steam Navigation Co. v. Secretary of State, the Supreme Court of Calcutta emphasized that the State would not be held liable if actions were taken in the exercise of which type of functions?
View Solution

The document Vicarious Liability of State in India | Civil Law for Judiciary Exams is a part of the Judiciary Exams Course Civil Law for Judiciary Exams.
All you need of Judiciary Exams at this link: Judiciary Exams
253 docs|259 tests

Up next

FAQs on Vicarious Liability of State in India - Civil Law for Judiciary Exams

1. What are the constituents of Vicarious Liability?
Ans. The constituents of Vicarious Liability include the relationship between the parties, the wrongful act committed by the agent or employee, and the connection between the act and the employment relationship.
2. What is Vicarious Liability of the State in India?
Ans. Vicarious Liability of the State in India refers to the legal responsibility of the government for the actions of its employees or agents while they are acting within the scope of their official duties.
3. What were the Pre-Constitution Judicial Decisions Relating to Vicarious Liability of State?
Ans. Pre-Constitution judicial decisions relating to Vicarious Liability of the State laid the foundation for holding the government liable for the actions of its employees or agents in India.
4. How has the Judiciary reiterated its views on Vicarious Liability of the State in India?
Ans. The Judiciary has reiterated its views on Vicarious Liability of the State by upholding the principle that the government can be held liable for the actions of its employees or agents under certain circumstances.
5. What are some Post-Constitution Judicial Decisions Relating to Vicarious Liability of the State in India?
Ans. Post-Constitution judicial decisions relating to Vicarious Liability of the State in India have further clarified and expanded the scope of holding the government liable for the actions of its employees or agents.
253 docs|259 tests
Download as PDF

Up next

Explore Courses for Judiciary Exams exam
Signup for Free!
Signup to see your scores go up within 7 days! Learn & Practice with 1000+ FREE Notes, Videos & Tests.
10M+ students study on EduRev
Related Searches

mock tests for examination

,

Important questions

,

shortcuts and tricks

,

Vicarious Liability of State in India | Civil Law for Judiciary Exams

,

video lectures

,

practice quizzes

,

MCQs

,

Exam

,

Viva Questions

,

Vicarious Liability of State in India | Civil Law for Judiciary Exams

,

Extra Questions

,

Vicarious Liability of State in India | Civil Law for Judiciary Exams

,

Summary

,

past year papers

,

ppt

,

study material

,

pdf

,

Sample Paper

,

Previous Year Questions with Solutions

,

Objective type Questions

,

Free

,

Semester Notes

;