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Tort and Crime

Tort and Crime
Tort and Crime


Private and Public Wrongs

The wrongs of a less serious nature are classified as private wrongs and termed as civil wrongs, while the more severe wrongs are considered public wrongs, known as crimes. 

According to Blackstone, "Wrongs are divisible into two sorts or species, private wrongs and public wrongs. The former are the infringement or privation of private or civil rights belonging to individuals, considered as individuals, and are thereupon frequently termed civil injuries; the latter are breaches and violations of public rights and duties which affect the whole community considered as a community; and are distinguished by the harsher application of crimes and misdemeanours."


Examples of Wrongs in Both Criminal Law and Law of Torts

Various wrongs like Assault, Defamation, Negligence, Conspiracy, and Nuisance are present in both criminal law and the law of torts. Each of these wrongs may have differing definitions under civil and criminal laws.

For civil liability, the law of torts applies, whereas criminal liability follows the rules of criminal law. Generally, serious wrongs or those affecting a large number of people are classified under criminal law. 

For example, causing an obstruction outside a residential building is a private nuisance, a tort. However, if similar obstruction occurs on a public road, it amounts to the offence of public nuisance as per Sec. 268, I.P.C.

Legal Procedures in Tort and Crime

Initiation of Proceedings

Since tort is a private wrong, the injured party files a suit as a plaintiff and can compromise with the tort-feasor, withdrawing the suit if desired. In contrast, criminal wrongs are public wrongs against the community or State, and proceedings are brought by the State, not the individual.

Moreover, settlements between the wrongdoer and aggrieved party are generally not allowed in criminal cases, making the compounding of an offence usually unlawful.

Objective of Justice

In tort cases, justice is served by awarding compensation to the injured party. Criminal law seeks to punish the wrongdoer to protect society and deter future offences.

Although compensation is a civil remedy, criminal courts may order compensation from fines under Section 357, Cr. P.C. 1973. The civil court considers any compensation already paid when additional claims are made.

Imprisonment and Detention

Under criminal law, imprisonment is a penalty for past wrongful acts. Civil law uses arrest and detention to compel the performance of duties, releasing the defendant once the duty is performed. For instance, a judgement-debtor may be arrested under Sec. 57, Cr. P.C., and released if the decree is satisfied.

Concurrent Civil and Criminal Remedies

Sometimes, the same facts can constitute both a tort and a crime, leading to concurrent civil and criminal remedies. The wrongdoer may need to pay compensation under tort law and face criminal liability.

For example, if A digs a ditch on a public road (a public nuisance under Section 268, IPC) and X gets injured falling into it, A is liable under both criminal law for public nuisance and tort law for private nuisance against X.


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