Tort Law in India

"Truly speaking, morality is the foundation and structure of the entire tort law." Therefore, it would be naive to rigorously or definitively shut down the constantly increasing horizon of tortious liability. Even for social development, orderly societal development, and cultural advancement, a court's liberal stance on tort liability would be beneficial. − J. Sahai

Any misconceptions about the importance of the law of torts are dispelled by the statement made by Hon. Sahai J. His observations also predict an increase in tort lawsuits in India. It would be helpful to turn to the history of England over the past three centuries in order to adequately assess the role played by tort law in contemporary society.

What is the Meaning of Tort?

The term "torture" has been used in India since before the country gained its freedom. In an old Hindu law text, the Sanskrit word Jimha, which means "crooked," was used to refer to “tortious” or “fraudulent activity”.

The concept of tort was far more constrained under Muslim and Hindu law than it was under English law. In these systems, punishment for crimes took precedence over making amends for wrongs.

However, Indian courts might first determine if an English legal principle is appropriate for Indian society and conditions before applying it. As a result, only certain aspects of English law have been applied in India.

In this regard, Justice Bhagwati stated in M.C. Mehta v. Union of India− "We have to evolve new concepts and put down new regulations that would effectively deal with new challenges that occur in a highly industrialized economy." We cannot allow the law as it is practiced in England, or for that matter in any other foreign country, to be the foundation of our judicial reasoning. We are undoubtedly ready to accept illumination from whatever source it may come, but we also need to develop our own jurisprudence.

If there was no explicit rule of enacted law that applied to the disagreement in a suit, Indian courts were required to operate in accordance with justice, equity, and good conscience during the British Empire. Insofar as it was consistent with justice, equity, and good conscience, judges applied English common law when it came to lawsuits seeking damages for torts. When any of its restrictions seemed excessive and inappropriate for Indian conditions, they broke them. A tort law act from England is not automatically applicable in India, although it may be applied there until it is rejected for the aforementioned reason.

Evolution of Tort Law in India

Primarily, we can discuss tort law in the time framework of ancient, medieval, and modern as −

Ancient India

The State and the King were viewed as the primary and fundamental mechanisms for the peaceful development of the people's lives. It was once thought that a king was infallible. There are several written materials that also discuss the law and the legal foundation, the King's culpability and invulnerability, the idea of the State's birth, the duties of the Supreme Court towards its citizens, and fair relief for the afflicted through the Ordealsystem, among other topics. The Vedas, Smritis, Sutras, Arthasashtra, Kautilya, and the writings of international travels are the most significant of the many manuscripts. They also explain the State's responsibility to compensate the victims who were wronged or injured by the King's officials throughout the ancient period.

Medieval India

When the nation was dominated by Islamic monarchs like the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire, there was very little advancement in the law of torts in India compared to the law of crimes. This is due to their moral code of "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth."

Modern Era

When the British Empire established three presidency courts thanks to the efforts of Sir Henry Mane and Sir James Stephens, Common Law and Tort law were introduced into India. Through Sir Frederick Pollock, it attempted to codify these regulations in 1886 with the Civil Wrongs Bill, but it was never approved.

The English Law of Torts, which constitutes the majority of "Common Law," serves as the foundation for tort law. If it is appropriate given the conditions of Indian society, the tort law is selectively implemented in Indian courts.

The word "tort" has been used in India much before independence. In contrast to English law, tort law had a less significant origin under Hindu and Islamic law. The majority of India's tort laws were adapted from English tort law. However, Indian courts first determine if the laws adapted from English tort law are compatible with Indian conditions and culture before applying them. Thus, the implementation of English law in India has been unique.

  • The 1726 Charter in India is connected to the beginning of tort law. The English courts, referred to as "Mayor courts," were formed in three presidencies under Charter 1726− Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras.

  • The common law was made applicable to these courts in India as well, but there were instructions to only use the term "common law" in quotation marks.

  • The common law was being applied while keeping in mind the moral values of equality, justice, and sound judgment.

  • The common law was thought to be inseparable from the law of torts. This was made applicable in this reference to India, but care was taken to ensure that it applied in accordance with the circumstances, customs, and traditions of India.

Main Objective of Indian Tort Law

It includes −

  • Compensation for those who have suffered harm is the primary goal of tort law. However, in contemporary society, the objective is to share losses among those who are somehow linked to one another.

  • Additionally, according to some authors, tort law is more inclined to penalize than to compensate. Everyone has a different perspective on what the purpose of torts is.

  • The violation of general obligation is a prevalent factor in both crimes and torts. Serious crimes like murder, robbery, and burglary are controlled by the state. The state has power over all common wrongs in Law of Torts as well. It is held that harm to one person is equivalent to harm to society.

Therefore, the primary goals of the law of torts are to punish wrongdoers and advance social harmony.


The Indian tort law is obviously not a new concept, but its explicit and exclusive use in the legal system is new. The failure of harmed parties to exercise their legal rights may be attributed to a number of factors, including challenges in establishing claims and securing reliable testimony, high court costs, and court delays, in addition to a lack of awareness of these rights. The removal of obstacles that prevent wronged persons from seeking or securing the remedies that the law offers for them is an issue that deserves thought. If these gaps are filled, India might also see an increase in tort lawsuits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is there a law on tort in India?

In India, there is a branch of law known as torts that deals with and offers remedies for non−contractual civil wrongdoings. A person who experiences legal harm may be able to use tort law to pursue restitution from those who are held accountable or legally liable.

Q. Which act in India defines tort?

Along with the definition, it is vital to provide a note about how tort litigation is a very narrow and restricted area in India. The Workmen's Compensation Act of 1923 and the Fatal Accidents Act of 1855 are two examples of legislative attempts to codify statutes governing the Law of Torts.

Q. Who can sue in tort in India?

Anyone who has a civil wrong action pending or instituted against them has the right to sue the defendant for damages. The individual who brings the lawsuit is referred to as the plaintiff, and those who have the right to an independent defense are referred to as the defendants.

Q. How many types of torts are there in India?

There are three fundamental kinds of torts− Torts with an intentional component, where a wrongdoer harmed another person on purpose. Negligent torts are crimes when the offender disregarded an obligation to the victim, such as when he jumps a red light and cause an accident. And, strict liability tort, when master is liable for the wrong committed by his servant while performing the duty.

Q. Where are tort cases filed in India?

In India, tort lawsuits are heard in civil courts, and the relief offered includes monetary damages, an order for an injunction, or restitution.

Updated on: 16-Dec-2022


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