Torts – Committed in Exercise of Statutory Duties

In India, tort committed while performing duty in discharge of obligations imposed by law has been considered to be a defence. However, for that it is necessary that the tortious act committed by the servant be in discharge of, sovereign functions.

In Ram Ghulam v State of UP (AIR 1950 MI 206), the police authorities recovered some stolen property and deposited the same in the Malkhana. The property was again stolen from the Malkhana, The Government of U.P. was held not liable for the same to the owner of the property as the government servants were performing obligations imposed by law. Similarly, in Kasturi Lal Rulia Ram Jain case, it was that the power to arrest a person, to search him, and to seize property found with him are powers conferred on the specified officers by statute (See also, State of UP v Tulsi Ram AIR 1971 All 162).

Recent Trends

(i) In State of Gujrat v memon Mahomed (AIR 1967 SC 1885), it was held that after seizure the position of  the Government was that of bailee. The Government, therefore, had a duty to pay compensation.

(ii) People’s Union for Democratic Rights v Police Commr. Delhi (1990) 1 SCC 422, the State was ordered to pay compensation to innocent victims of police firing.

(iii) In Sebastian M Hongray v U01 (AIR 1984 SC 1026). exemplary damages were awarded for disappearance of two persons in military custody.

(iv) In Bhim Singh v Stare of f. & K. (AIR 1986 SC 494) and Rudal Shah v State of Bihar (AIR 1983 SC 1086). the State was held liable for wrongful detention and monetary compensation was awarded.

(v) In N. Nagendra Rao & Co. v Slate of A.P. (1994) 6 SCC 205. held that when due to the negligent act of the officers of State a citizen suffers any damage the State will be liable to pay compensation. In this case, appellant’s huge stocks of food grains and fertilizers were seized. He was later found not guilty of blackmarketing or adulteration. When he went to take the delivery of the stock he found that the stock has been spoilt both in quality and quantity.

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