False Imprisonment


False Imprisonment-

False imprisonment is a civil wrong and is one of the intentional torts. When literal meaning is given to the words ‘False’ means- unlawful or erroneous; ‘Imprisonment’ means- restraining someone without their consent, with an intention to cause some physical or legal injury to the other person. False Imprisonment is not a new concept under tortious activities, the cases of false imprisonment can be traced back when the concept of ruling humans by humans began. In simple words, the concept of ‘False Imprisonment’ can be defined as, any act by the defendant where, the defendant restraints the freedom of movement of the plaintiff in any manner without any lawful justification or authority amounts to false imprisonment. In some cases of False Imprisonment may be of both civil and criminal nature.

The elements of False Imprisonment are-

1. There should be willful detention-

The concept of False Imprisonment, in the first place starts with the detention of the plaintiff by the defendant. This detention may be ‘actual’ i.e., physical. In physical detention the plaintiff may be restricted to freedom of movement, this may be done by locking the person in a room or restricting him from entering into any particular area.

Detention or Total Restraint under criminal law may be total or partial, although both are actionable. According to sec 339 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever voluntarily obstructs any person so as to prevent that person from proceeding in any direction in which that person has a right to proceed, is said wrongfully to restrain that person[1].

Case- Vijay Kumari v. S.M. Rao, in this case the teacher lost the authority to enter into the hostel at threshold when her license was terminated. This case is a very good example for detention of a person. Although this detention was authoritative, yet it amounted to false imprisonment as termination of teaching license and right to enter the hostel are not connected to each other.

Telapolu Subbadu, in this case the accused removed the ladder that lead to the terrace of a house and thereby detained the person on the roof of the house.

According to sec 340 of the Indian Penal Code, whoever wrongfully restrains any person in such a manner as to prevent that person from proceeding beyond certain circumscribing limits, is said ‘wrongfully to confine’ that person. In this type of confinement, a person is detained from entering into any premises where he has the right to go.

Case- Paothing Tangkul v. State of Nagaland, the petitioner was detained by an order passed by the JMFC, whereas the authority for the order of detention vested with the State or Central Govt. It was held that the said detention, being without authority of law, amounted to wrongful confinement. The detention was quashed and the detenu was granted to a compensation of ₹3,000.

2. The detention must have been without consent of the plaintiff-

The detention should be made without the consent of the aggrieved party. Although if the consent of the aggrieved party is a perfect essential or not is still debated. In one of the leading case in England- Herring v. Boyle, in this case, it was held that the knowledge of false imprisonment (detention) was necessary.

In another leading case – Meering v. Grahame-white Aviation Co., it was held that, the knowledge or consent is not necessary as the wrong could have been made even without the knowledge of the aggrieved party.

3. The detention should be unlawful-

To constitute to the wrong of False Imprisonment, the detention should be unlawful or should be made without any lawful justification.

In one of the leading cases, Rudul Shah v. State of Bihar, it was held that, if a criminal is imprisoned even after the day of acquittal also amounts to false imprisonment. In this case, although the imprisonment was done by authoritative person yet it amounted to false imprisonment[2].

Constituents of False Imprisonment-

It is very important to understand what ‘Constituents’ mean before analyzing the constituents. In simple words, any act which amounts to false imprisonment is called a ‘constituent’ of false imprisonment.

Mainly there are four constituents of false imprisonment, they are-

The period of confinement -

The period of confinement is one of the constituents of false imprisonment. However, the period of confinement is predominantly considered when the aggrieved party needs to be compensated or when relevant damages have to be paid to the aggrieved party. For instance, if a person is imprisoned for a period of 30mins, considerable compensation is paid. Similarly, if a person is falsely imprisoned for a few days, the compensation will be awarded considering the degree and nature of imprisonment. Moreover, the history of the aggrieved party and the defendant also needs to be considered, so that justice can be made to either of the parties.

Case- Bhim Singh v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, this is one of the leading cases where there was consideration of the period of confinement. Although in this case, the main issue was that, an M.L.A of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly was unlawfully detained by the police officer so that he should miss the session. Here, in this case, the confinement was only for a few hours, but his potential contribution to the assembly was considered and relevant compensation was given[3].

The intention of the wrongdoer –

The intention of the wrongdoer or the defendant plays a very important role as a constituent of false imprisonment. Although, mens rea or guilty mind is not a compulsion on the concept of torts, yet it is crucial as it becomes essential for the judge while deciding the case. In some cases, if any person negligently locks another person in a room for 2hours, then he becomes liable for false imprisonment.

Case- Herring v. Boyle – This case has been discussed above and the same case can be given as an example to discuss the impact of the intention of the wrongdoer on the aggrieved party.

Similarly, in Garikipati v. Araza Biksham, in this case, the defendant files a false report to the police saying that, the plaintiff had set his property on fire. This accusation was false. However, in this case, there was malice in the intention of the defendant but the police officers were negligent as they didn’t take necessary care before arresting the plaintiff[4].

Knowledge of the aggrieved party/ consent –

The knowledge of the aggrieved party or the plaintiff is not mandatory, there can be a breach of freedom of movement at any given time. Therefore, this tort might happen without the consent of the plaintiff. In most of the cases, there is no consent from the plaintiff or aggrieved party. This dilemma has given scope of restraint by any person to be tried in a criminal court under sec 339 and sec 340 of the Indian Penal Code[5].

Case – Kundal Lal v. Dr. Des Raj, in this case the Superintendent of Police(SP), cancelled the bail and rearrested the plaintiff, this was not within his powers of the SP. Here in this case, the plaintiff had the knowledge that his application for bail was approved but the plaintiff was not aware that, the bail was cancelled by the SP. So, when the Sub-Inspector arrested the plaintiff it amounted to false imprisonment[6].

Place of confinement and influence by the wrongdoer –

Generally, when the concept of false imprisonment comes into picture, the person is assumed to be wrongly imprisoned in a jail. But the fact may not always be the same, a person may be wrongly imprisoned in a store by the store keeper, in a library or in a bank by a robber. Moreover, false imprisonment doesn’t only mean to detain a person in some place but, it may also mean to restrict a person’s entry into some areas; for instance, when a person is restricted from walking on the footpath, or when a shopkeeper doesn’t allow a particular person to buy from his shop.

Case – In all of the cases discussed, we find that there have been detention as well as restriction which amounted into false imprisonment. In Rudul Sah v. State of Bihar, the accused was not released after his sentence of 14 years of imprisonment was served by the defendant, in this case, the imprisonment was in a cell and it was detention.

Conclusion –

After analyzing the constituents of false imprisonment, we come to a conclusion that- false imprisonment may be because of malicious intention of the defendant or by negligence, but the sufferer is the plaintiff, hence while awarding the compensation, the period of confinement, place of confinement and the force used by the defendant should be considered. These above mentioned considerations will make sure that, the plaintiff or the aggrieved party get complete justice.

An aggrieved party may seek justice from the court of law, by writ issued in the Supreme Court under article 32 or in the concerned state High Court under article 226 of the Constitution of India. In the cases of Rudul Shah v. State of Bihar[7] and Bhim Singh v. State of J&K[8], Habeas Corpus was applied as a means of justice.

False imprisonment also can be related to the article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which talks about Right to Life and Personal Liberty. Any person who is wrongly imprisoned, can take legal action against the wrongdoer for breach of Fundamental Rights. Personal Liberty gives a fundamental right to every citizen of India to move freely. So, any person who detains or restricts the movement of any individual can be sued in the court of law.

[1] Sec 339 of Indian Penal Code.

[2] Rudul Shah v. State of Bihar- AIR 1983 SC 1086

[3] Bhim Singh v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, AIR 1986 SC 494

[4] Garikipati v. Araza Biksham- AIR 1979 AP 31

[5] Supra

[6] 1954 56 P.L.R. 331- Punjab& Haryana High Court

[7] Supra AIR 1983 SC 1086

[8] Supra AIR 1986 SC 494


subrato angadi 
on 31 October 2015
Published in Students
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