This article has been written by Deepika, pursuing BA-LLB at IIMT & School of Law, GGSIPU, Delhi. In this article, she has analyzed Bhim Singh v. State of J&K, a famous case of the legal maxim ‘injuria sine damno’.
In order to be successful in an action for tort, the plaintiff has to prove that, some legal damage has been caused to him. Unless there has been a violation of a legal right, there can be no action under the law of torts. If there has been a violation of legal right, the same is actionable even if as a consequence thereof, the plaintiff has suffered any loss or not. This is expressed by the maxim “Injuria sine damno”. This case Bhim Singh v. State of J&k is a very important case of this maxim.
O C Reddy, V Khalid
Date of judgement
22 November 1985
- Whether monetary compensation was a suitable remedy or not?
- Whether the detention of the M. L. A was valid or not?
Article 21, Article 22(2), and Article 32
Injuria sine damno
Facts of the case
Mr Bhim Singh an MLA of Jammu and Kashmir was arrested and detained in police custody and was deliberately prevented from attending the sessions of the legislative assembly to be held on 11th September 1985. He was arrested on an intervening night between 9th and 10th September 1985 by the station house officer of Quiz Kunda police station, on the allegation that a case under section 153A of Ranbir Penal Code was registered against him for delivering an inflammatory speech at the public meeting held near parade ground, Jammu on 8th September 1985. Earlier, on August 17, 1985, the opening day of the budget session of the legislative assembly, Bhim Singh was suspended from the assembly. When he questioned the suspension in the High court of Jammu & Kashmir, the order of suspension was stayed by the High court. He was arrested on the intervening night of 9th and 10th, when he was proceeding from Jammu to Srinagar. September He had to attend sessions of the legislative assembly on 11th September, where he had to cast a crucial vote. He couldn’t cast vote because of the detention, but the candidate for him he wanted to vote won the election. Although there was no actual loss to the plaintiff there was violation of his legal right. Also, he has not produced before the Magistrate till 13th September, while he should have been produced before the magistrate within 24 hours. As his wife didn’t get any information of him since last few days, she filed a writ of Habeas Corpus before the Supreme Court.
On the inquiry of the Supreme Court, it was found that Mr Bhim Singh was illegally detained by the police personnel, aided either by collision or by a casual attitude with the Magistrate, who ordered for remand without production of the arrested person before him. The Supreme court judges O. Chinnappa Reddy criticized the conduct of the magistrate and sub judge, stating that they have no concern for the subject out of either casual behaviour or worse than they had potentially colluded with the police who had deliberately acted in malafide. The Court pointed out that the Magistrate acted without any sense of responsibility or genuine concern for the personal liberty and the police arrested the imprisoned with mischievous and malicious intent and it was certainly was a gross violation of the constitutional right of the accused person under article 21 and 22(2). There was also a violation of his Constitutional right to attend the assembly session. The court in this landmark judgement of tort law in India, by exercising its power to award compensation under Article 32(2), directed the state to pay Rs. 50000 to Bhim Singh a compensation to him for violation of his constitutional right by way of exemplary cost.
In the normal cases of injuria sine damno, where the plaintiff had suffered no harm and yet the wrongful act is actionable, generally nominal damages are awarded. If, however, the court feels that the violation of a legal right is owing to mischievous and malicious act, as had happened in this case, the court may grant exemplary damages.
This case was a landmark case which evolved the tort law in India. This case revolves around wrongful confinement and injuria sine damnum. The court gave very appreciable decision in this case, as there no other than the one adopted by court to compensate the plaintiff. In this court has also narrowed the space between state and citizen. By directing the state to pay compensation the Supreme court established the following principle that state and citizen are at an equal position in the eyes of law. This decision also shows the weakening of the original doctrine of sovereign immunity and the changing concept of state. In this case, the Supreme court recognized the liability of the state to pay compensation, when Rights to life and personal liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution has been violated by the officials of the state.