Name of the case

Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company v. Secretary of State for India.

Equivalent Citation

(1861) 5 Bom. H.C.R. App. I,p.1


Peacock C.J, Jackson J, Wells J

Relevant Section

Section 65 of the Government of India Act, 1858  

Relevant Act

Government of India Act, 1858.

Facts of the Case

In the course of their employment, a servant of the plaintiff Company was travelling from Garden Beach in Calcutta in an exceeding carriage pulled by a pair of horses belonging to the plaintiff and driven by the coachman. While the bus was travelling by Kidderpore Dockyard, which may be a government dockyard overseen by the Superintendent of Marine, certain government employees were riveting a piece of iron funnel casing. It weighed around 300 kilogrammes, was eight or nine feet long, and stood about two feet tall. The lads carrying the cargo walked along the centre of the road. The coachman issued a warning to the youngsters carrying the iron. The lads sought to induce their way out of the way, those ahead trying to go to one side, and those behind attempted to travel to the opposite side. As a result of this, you lost time, which caused the carriage to stop for them, even though they had left the centre of the road.

They were startled by the carriage’s proximity and abruptly dropped the iron and ran. The iron landed with a respectable clap, which roused the aggrieved party’s ponies, who rushed forward savagely and fell on the iron, injuring at least one pony. The action was launched by the injured party Company to recuperate Rs. 350/ – due to the injury, and the lawsuit against the Secretary of State was afterwards brought on the basis that a government worker concluded the irresponsible exhibition.

Issues Before the Court

  • Whether or not the Company’s actions fall inside the purview of the State’s sovereign powers?
  • What was the East India Company’s overall risk for the complicated demonstrations of its personnel submitted in the course of their work?
  • Whether the Secretary of State was liable for the damage caused by the government’s carelessness. servants, supposing they were guilty of such carelessness?

Ratio Decidendi

  • Where a protest is carried out in the exercise of sovereign forces, there will be opposition, and no activity will take place. However, because the East India Company had a twofold restriction and were at once truly trading for their own and were that preoccupied with trades halfway for state requirements and partly for their own, they may be held liable for the unfair demonstration of any of their employees if such conduct occurred during the course of an exchange unrelated to the exercise of sovereign powers.
  • Given the facts of this case, the workers employed by the government at the dockyard were not performing any activity within the scope of sovereign forces, but the demonstration was the culmination of an endeavor that could be carried out by a non-open individual without having sovereign forces assigned to him, to which the archipelago Company would be obligated. As a result, the Secretary of State for India was also to blame for the reckless demonstrations of its personnel.
  • Mishaps like these, when caused by the negligence of government employees, the Malay Archipelago Company, would be susceptible, and a similar risk is attached to the Secretary of State.


The plaintiffs contend that the Secretary of State was given the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, the East India Company was not the sovereign, although having some royal powers granted to them, and hence could not claim immunity in every instance.

This article is written by Mudit Jain, pursuing B.B.A.LL.B.(H) from the Indore Institute of Law.



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