Friday, 4 February 2022

Wrongful restraint of a man's liberty: Meaning, Defense and Remedy

 Wrongful restraint of a man's liberty: Meaning, Defense and Remedy

By Nemi Bhavsar

Wrongfully restraining a man's liberty is actionable in the law of torts, under the heading Trespass to Person or more specifically, under the heading false imprisonment. Let us first take a look at the definition of false imprisonment.

According to Winfield, false imprisonment can be defined as consisting in imprisonment of a total restraint for some period, however short upon the liberty of aaWrongfully restraining a man's liberty is actionable in the law of torts, under the heading Trespass to Person or more specifically, under the heading false imprisonment. Let us first take a look at the definition of false imprisonment.

The plaintiff has to prove the following to invoke liability under the wrongful act of false imprisonment:

1) The plaintiff has to prove that he was imprisoned in any form or the other. The basic essential that constitutes the wrongful act of false imprisonment is that the victim must have been imprisoned. Without a person being imprisoned, he/ she cannot file a case for false imprisonment. This can either be actual i.e., laying bare hands upon that person or constructive i.e., by a mere show of authority. 


2) Having proved imprisonment, the plaintiff now has to prove that the imprisonment was unlawful, i.e., it wasn't backed by any legal sanction. If any imprisonment (either physical or constructive) is backed by legal sanction, then it does not fall under the ambit of this tort. 


3) The imprisonment must be total and not partial in the sense that the plaintiffs right to move about freely i.e., his right to liberty is constrained in all the four directions and not in any particular direction. Only then shall it be considered as a wrongful act of false imprisonment.


4) For the case of false imprisonment, the knowledge of the plaintiff that he is being subject to that tort is not necessary. In the case of Merring v Graham White Aviation Co Ltd , Lord Atkin said that a person could be imprisoned while he was asleep or in a state of drunkenness.


5) This act can be caused by either the defendant himself or through any other person. A person may be liable for false imprisonment not only when he directly arrests or detains the plaintiff, but also when he was "active in promoting or causing" the arrest or detention .


6) Lastly, the plaintiff has to prove that the act of false imprisonment to which he was subjected had no legal backing. If it was under the due course of law then this tort won't be applicable.

Case: Garikipati Ramayya v Araza Biksham 

In this case, the defendant who was the sarpanch (headman) of a village made a false report to the police that the plaintiff (who was from the opposition party) had set fire to his property. On the basis of this report, the police arrested the plaintiff, but the charges came out to be false. The defendant was held liable for the tort of false imprisonment.

Case: Rudul Sah v State of Bihar 

In this case, plaintiff had got his acquittal orders long time back. Still the jail authorities did not release him for a period of 14 years. The plaintiff filed a writ petition under Article 32 in the Supreme Court of India stating that he had been wrongfully imprisoned. The petition was allowed, and the State was held liable.

Defenses for False Imprisonment:

1) An action of taking a person under imprisonment won't be a tort of false imprisonment if it was under judicial authority or public authority i.e., it was backed by a judicial order. For example, if the courts have ordered the compulsory presentation of someone before it then that person cannot claim false imprisonment .

 2) When a police officer arrests a person erroneously named in a warrant, he is not liable for false imprisonment as his only duty is to execute the warrant as it is on its face .

 3) A person while exercising reasonable self-defense, when wrongfully imprisoning another person would not be held liable for this tort. The main condition in this regard is that the use of force by the plaintiff must be reasonable.

 4) Parental and Quasi-parental authority is also a defense for this tort. If a parent in the exercise of their control and supervision restrains the liberty of their child or pupil to a certain extent, then it won't be held to be false imprisonment. Similarly, if a teacher at school restrains a child within the school hours for his own benefit, then it won't be false imprisonment.

 5) Measures of crowd control adopted by the police resulting in the detention of a crowd, which also included some innocent people, to prevent breach of peace, and risk of injury to persons or property would not lead to false imprisonment so long as they were done in good faith.

 6) Consent of the opposite party as in Volenti Nonfit Injuria would also be an effective defense in this case. If the plaintiff gives his own consent freely without any external influence on the curtailment of his own liberty, then the defendant won't be held liable for false imprisonment.

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