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Introduction

Under the law of tort, there is a topic called “General Defences” which provides a set of defences that a person can undertake to escape liability. So when the plaintiff brings an action for tort, the defendant can plead for these defences. If the court feels that the defence is justified, the wrongdoer is excused and his liability is dissolved. Judicial and Quasi-judicial acts by a person is one of the defences available under the topic “General Defences.” They are explained below in detail.

Judicial Acts

A judge discharging his official duties or a Judicial Officer exercising his judicial function is referred to as a “judicial act.” This defence can be taken by a Judge if an action in tort is brought against him. The law says that no suit will lie against a Judge for any act done or any words spoken by him whilst doing his duty.

In the case of Anderson v. Gorrie (1894), the plaintiff had accused two men of obtaining money under a false pretence. However, on the advice of his counsel, he withdrew the case. The presiding Judge of the case here remarked that the plaintiff was extorting money from the defendant by involving them in litigation. Here, no action will lie against the judge because he was discharging his duties.

Also, the Judicial Officers Protection Act, 1850 states that “no Judge, Magistrate, Collector, or any person acting judicially shall be sued in any Civil Court, for any act done by him in the discharge of his judicial duties”.

The court must ensure that the following two conditions are satisfied before it allows such a defence by a Judge-

a) The act must be done while doing his judicial duty.

b) The judge must be acting within his jurisdiction, or at least in good faith believes himself to have jurisdiction to do the act.

This rule of immunity is also available to the members of naval and military courts-martial or courts of inquiry constituted in compliance with the military law and not only to the judges of the ordinary civil courts. Also, to a limited extent, it applies to the arbitrators as well and the persons who are appointed in a position like that of the arbitrator.

Quasi-Judicial Acts

The word ‘quasi’ holds a Latin origin and means ‘similar to but not exactly.’ There are certain bodies and persons such as colleges, committees, institutions that exercise quasi-judicial powers and therefore are protected from civil liability. Eg- acts of a Commission like the Human Rights Commission, Tribunals like the Income Tax Tribunal, etc.

These quasi-judicial bodies observe the rules of natural justice. For the purpose of effective functioning, they may create certain fair rules in consonance with statutes applicable to them and according to conventional rules.The quasi-judicial acts are not exactly court proceedings. They may seem to derive the powers and functions of some laws, but they are still not considered to be courts. They don’t usually follow any procedure of the court.

Quasi-judicial is also known as a non-judicial body thatcan interpret law. It is an entity, which has powers and procedures that resemble a court of law or judge, and which is obliged to determine facts and draw conclusions from them to provide the basis of official action. Therefore, these actions are remedies for a situation or to impose legal penalties, and the actions may affect the legal rights, duties, or privileges of specific parties.

Eg- a person cannot be wrongfully terminated or removed from membership without giving him the following – 

a)    Sufficient opportunity of being heard.

b)    An opportunity to defend himself.

c)    Person removing him must act in good faith i.e. must act with due care and attention.

Difference between Judicial and Quasi-Judicial Acts

Judicial acts are done by judicial bodies like Supreme Court and High Courts and they strictly follow the codified law, particularly CrPC, CPC, Evidence Act, etc. Quasi-judicial acts are done by bodies like Tribunals who do not follow the rules completely.The word quasi itself means semi or partial. They are partially judicial. 

Conclusion

Law of tort provides immunity to various bodies performing judicial and quasi-judicial acts, so that they can exercise their powers and discharge their duties fearlessly. This defence can be used by them in case of an erroneous decision that was performed in good faith. 


 


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