Whenever one’s right is wronged, it is imperative that there is always some way to remedy that sufferance or injury caused to that person, to bring back the conviction of being just in a just society. It is done to bring about that same level of equilibrium prior to the right being wronged, the damage and injury caused. One can use the imagination of a scenario where one is wronged and has suffered some type of damage but if there was no remedy, the sufferings of that person would be prolonged, contributing to lack of peace and hence rendering the society’s system as being ineffective. If there is no relief, it would only lead to pent-up frustration and a feeling of insecurity. There would be constant feelings of apprehension due to a lack of guarantee of restoration, which would have been an important tool to the path of peace and security. Hence, the concept of torts came into the practice for this very purpose; to restore the victim of the wrong to their previous position prior to that action that led to injury or damage.
INTRODUCTION OF TORT LAW
The beginning of the Law of Torts can be followed by Roman statute alterium non-laedere. The saying signifies “not to harm another” for example not to hurt anybody by deeds or words. This saying is like trustworthiness vivere which signifies “to live respectably” and suum inner circle tribuere which is disclosed as to deliver to each man that has a place with him or it is an overall articulation to give equity to every individual. This multitude of three sayings can be ascribed for the advancement of the Law of Torts.
The fundamental goals of tort law are to compensate affected parties for harms inflicted by others, to hold those responsible that caused such injury, and to deter others from harming others. Torts allow the degree of loss to be shifted from the party who was injured to the party who caused it. Typically, a person seeking remedies under tort law will seek monetary compensation in the form of damages.
Remedies that are not normally used are injunction and restitution. The common law, the system that India follows, and state statutory law set the limits of tort law. Judges have broad discretion in assessing which activities qualify as legally cognizable wrongs, which defenses may outweigh any particular claim and the appropriate measure of damages when interpreting statutes. There are variations in the tort law across states of a country. There are three types of torts- Intentional torts (e.g., purposefully hitting a person); negligent torts (e.g., creating an accident by failing to respect traffic laws); and recklessness torts (e.g., causing an accident by deliberately failing to obey traffic rules).
TORT LAW IN INDIA
Because tort law is comparable throughout common law jurisdictions, courts have frequently relied on case law from other common law jurisdictions, like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, in addition to local precedent. When applying foreign precedent, however, consideration is given to local norms and conditions, as well as India’s unique constitutional framework. The legislature has also enacted legislation to address specific societal issues. Aspects of tort law have been codified, as they have in other common law countries.
The Indian Penal Code or other criminal legislation may make some behavior that gives rise to a cause of action under tort law illegal. When a tort is also a criminal offense, the aggrieved party is nevertheless entitled to seek redress under tort law. The overlap between the two domains of law is due to the different purposes they serve and the different types of remedies they offer. Tort law tries to hold a tortfeasor accountable, therefore tort proceedings are taken directly by the aggrieved party to obtain damages, but criminal law intends to punish and discourage conduct that is regarded to be against the interests of society, so criminal actions are conducted by the government.
As in other common law jurisdictions, tort law in India is primarily guided by court precedent, reinforced with statutes governing damages, codifying common law torts, and civil procedure. A tort, just like other common law jurisdictions, is a breach of a non-contractual duty that causes harm to the plaintiff and gives rise to a civil cause of action with a remedy. Because the reason for tort law is to provide a solution to the individual who has been hurt, if a remedy is not present, it will be considered that a tort has not been committed.
Despite the fact that Indian tort law is largely inherited from English law, there still are distinctions between the two systems. Indian tort law is unique in that it provides remedies for constitutional torts, which are government activities that infringe on constitutional rights, as well as an absolute liability system for enterprises involved in hazardous conduct.
So, considering that the basic rule of torts is to compensate the value corresponding to the damage or injury caused, how is such a practice calculated? In India, damages are based on the principle of restitutio ad integrum. In all circumstances, India uses a compensatory approach and argues for “full and fair compensation.”
The Indian court will seek similar cases to compare when assessing the number of damages. The multiplier approach, which awards compensation corresponded to the degree of compromise to the victim’s earning power, is used in India to calculate damages in tort cases.
The fair and just amount refers to the number of years’ purchase upon which loss of reliance is capitalized under the multiplier technique. Then, in order to account for future uncertainty, a reduction in the multiplier would also have to be made. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, the multiplier concept is enshrined in the statute for tortious proceedings that involve personal injuries that have been caused by motor vehicles. The court will, however, take inflation into consideration when determining damages.
Now, in case of calculating personal injuries, in tort lawsuits involving personal injury, Indian jurisprudence recognizes seven distinct forms of harm where damages may be awarded. These categories are known as heads of claim, and they can be separated into non-pecuniary and pecuniary, similar to the more general distinction established in other common law jurisdictions between economic and non-economic damages. The following financial grounds of claim are recognized by Indian tort law:
- Earnings are lost.
- Expenses for nursing care, hospital, and medical.
- Matrimonial prospects are dwindling.
The following non-monetary heads of claim are recognized by contemporary Indian jurisprudence:
- Loss of hope for the future.
- Loss of luxuries or the ability to enjoy life.
- Physiological function loss or impairment.
- Suffering and pain.
Intentional torts are harms that the defendant has had the intentions to do or should have had an expectation to occur as a result of his or her action or omissions. When the defendant’s such acts or omissions were unreasonably dangerous, they are called negligent torts. Unlike deliberate and torts of negligence, torts of strict liability are unaffected by the defendant’s level of care. Instead, in these situations, the courts look to see if a specific result or injury occurred.
Some moves should be made with a reason to submit a deliberate misdeed and wrong, for example, an intention is a must for an act to be committed. It is fundamental that there is a psychological component.
The Supreme Court declared in the State of Maharashtra versus M.H. George that criminal intent is a psychological truth that must be proven even in cases involving exceptional conduct unless it is clearly ruled out or ruled out by whatever necessary inference.
That is because Mens rea, or the purpose to commit a criminal act knowing the negative consequences, is one of the most fundamental elements of a crime. Mens rea is expressed by the use of phrases like intention, malice, fraud, irresponsibility, and so on. Before committing an offense, one must be a guilty mind. Mens rea include what the person is intending to do and the refusal to perform anything that is demanded of you. The mere intent to commit a crime is illegal in and of itself. An accused will be found guilty if it is proven that he intended to commit the crime, however, the burden of proving it is on the other side, and there must be sufficient evidence to decide that intention exists.
In Ramachandra Gujar’s case, the court held that a person’s intention may only be inferred from their actions and that the likely consequences of such actions must also be considered.
Negligence is a type of civil tort that occurs when a person violates his duty of care to another, causing that other person to suffer harm or face legal consequences. In tort law, negligence can take the following forms, that is, a method of committing various torts such as trespassing or causing a nuisance. It can be considered as a separate tort by itself.
The plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty of care that was owed to him and that this duty was breached. The nature of negligence liability is strictly legal, does not have to be moral or religious. ‘Duty’ might be seen as a responsibility to be cautious of others.
Duty Violation: The second stage is to prove that there was an actual breach of duty once the first criterion has been demonstrated. The defendant is expected to perform his responsibilities in a rational manner. The deciding factor is whether or not the defendant exercised reasonable caution.
Damage: The plaintiff must have suffered some loss as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty. The case of Donoghue v Stevenson represents a watershed moment in the history of the tort of negligence. The plaintiff, in this case, went to a cafe to order a ginger beer, that was sealed with an opaque cork. When the contents of the bottle were emptied, a decaying body of a snail emerged. The plaintiff became ill as a result of consuming some of the tainted contents of the bottle.
The court determined that a manufacturer that manufactures a product for the end consumer on the basis that the consumer will be injured if the manufacturer fails to exercise reasonable care, does owe a duty of care to the plaintiff.
A person’s actions might sometimes be so rash that they become the subject of a criminal investigation or a lawsuit. If a person acts recklessly with complete disregard for the safety of others and has the knowledge or should that his activities may cause injury to others, he may be held accountable for the injuries produced by his actions. It suggests the person was aware (or should have been aware) that his or her actions had the potential to damage others.
Recklessness is defined as behavior that is less than intentional but more than mere negligence. Unlike negligence, which occurs when a person takes an action with a risk that they should have known about, recklessness refers to taking a risk knowingly.
For example, the Supreme Court has defined what constitutes criminal culpability and differentiated between recklessness, negligence, and rashness. A person is said to have acted negligently when he or she accidentally commits an act or omission that would cause a breach of his or her legal duty, according to the law. A person who has done rashly when he or she is aware of the consequences but stupidly believes that they will not materialize as a result of his or her actions. A careless person is aware of the repercussions yet is unconcerned about whether or not they are the result of his or her actions. ‘Any behavior that is not adequate to recklessness and wilful wrongdoing shall not be subject to criminal prosecution,’ the Court stated in Poonam Verma VS. Ashwin Patel.
Many risky activities are prohibited by state law, and irresponsible actors are viewed as social risks because they jeopardize the safety of others. A person who has been hurt as a result of another’s negligence may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation, pain, lost wages, and suffering. Furthermore, recklessness may allow compensation from those who are normally free from liability for simple negligence, like government employees and health care providers.
Recklessness is a subjective as well as objectively defined state of mind. There are two kinds of irresponsible behavior. The first examines what the performer knew or was thought to be thinking at the time of the act (subjective test). The second evaluates what a person with a reasonable mind in the defendant’s circumstances would have believed (objective test). In all cases, the question is whether the person was aware (or should have been aware) that his acts could injure someone else.
It is dangerous, for example, for a car driver to purposely cross a highway in violation of a stop sign if traffic is approaching from both directions. In comparison, he does not stop since his attention is diverted and he is unaware that he is approaching the crossing which otherwise would be considered negligent.
Tort law allows for not only full recompense for victims, but also for the revelation of wrongdoing and the discouragement of malicious or negligent acts. A verdict of the court can be spread all over the country, if not the world, and can result in harmful practices being changed or stopped. Tort law has progressed to level the playing field, having roots in English common law. It empowers those without resources to compete with anyone on the globe, not just direct action. Any multi-billion-dollar enterprise or overreaching government agency. Besides only compensating an injured sufferer, tort law offers further advantages. Automobiles, the roads, toys, and foods are safer.
Written by Tingjin Marak, a student at Ajeenkya DY Patil University, Pune.