Case number

 105 of 1963


 AIR 1965 SC 1039


Gajendragadkar, P.B. (CJ)

Wanchoo, K.N.

Hidayatullah, M.

Dayal Raghubar

Mudholkar, J.K.

Decided on

29th September, 1964

Relevant section

300(1) of the Constitution of India

 Brief facts 

Ralia Ram was one of the partners of a firm that deals in bullion and other goods at Amritsar. He was taken into custody by three police constables on suspicion of owning the stolen property at the bazaar of Meerut, where he went to sell his goods. He was detained into lock-up and his belongings, gold and silver were seized and kept into Malkhana till the disposal of the case. The next day he was released on bail and after sometimes the seized silver has been returned to him. He then made the demand for the seized gold, and since he could not recover the gold from the officers, he filed the current suit and claimed a decree that either his gold should be returned to him or the equivalent amount should be paid to him. The claim was resisted and it was urged that the respondent was not liable to pay either the gold or the relevant amount. The respondent alleged that the head constable, Mohammad Amir, then in charge misappropriated the gold and some cash deposited in Malkhana and flew away to Pakistan and the case against him was also filed but nothing effective could be done in the said case. Alternatively, the respondent pleaded, it is not a case of negligence and if it is then also the state is not liable for loss incurred by such negligence.

Issue before the Court

Whether the tort of negligence committed by public servant in discharge of statutory function, which can be categorized under sovereign powers, be held liable?

Ratio of the case

 The powers conferred on a specified officer by statute, here the power to arrest a person, to search him, and to seize property, can categorized as sovereign powers and the Supreme Court also held that the act which gave rise to the present claim for damages has been committed by the employee of the respondent during the course of its employment, but the employment in question in categorized under sovereign powers.

Decision of the court

The Supreme Court held that it was negligence on the part of respondent’s employee, but the employee was discharging his sovereign powers, hence the claim of the appellant fails and the parties had to bear the cost of damage.

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