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Differences Between Tort And Crime

Tort and crime, two legal branches, are different because each of them deals with specific elements of wrongful behaviour as well as consequences for these.

Tort law is mainly based on civil wrongs where one party's actions or inactions result in harm or injury to the other, which calls upon legal responsibility and repair. Its main aim is to provide a victim with financial compensation for individual damage caused.

Criminal law, in contrast, handles offenses against the state or society as a whole, seeking punishment that discourages, rehabilitates, and protects society. The state takes responsibility to prosecute crimes, and the penalties that one can suffer from them are imprisonment, fines, or community services.

Tort law and criminal law both pertain to misconduct, but they differ in their purposes within the legal system; tort law is intended to provide compensation to victims and restore them to their condition before any injuries were inflicted, while criminal law is aimed at upholding societal norms and punishing wrongdoers for their actions.

The key differences between tort and crime are given below:
  • Tort is a civil wrong which gives rise to civil proceedings. Crime is a criminal offence which gives rise to criminal proceedings.
  • The objective of tort law is to protect an individual's entitlements, while criminal law aims to maintain social order and deter criminal behaviour.
  • In tort private person takes action. In crime State or Police takes action.
  • Law of tort is uncodified law. Law of crime is codified law.
  • In Tort compensation is the remedy. In crime punishment is by way of fine, imprisonment etc.
  • An individual's private rights are violated in tort. When a crime occurs, it involves breaking societal rules and responsibilities, resulting in consequences for the community.
  • In Tort civil court hears the case. In crime criminal court tries the case.
  • In tort the amount of compensation is given to the plaintiff. In the event of a crime, the state is entitled to receive the imposed fine as a form of punishment.
  • In case of death of a tort feasor, his legal representatives can be sued (except in defamation, assault etc.). In crime death of an offender puts an end to the prosecution.
  • Limitation is a bar to an action in tort. Generally, there is no bar of limitation to a prosecution for a crime except in certain cases as per section 468 of CrPC.
  • There is no legislation or Act for Tort. Only common law or judgment law or case law governs the determination of compensation. There is an Act called Indian Penal Code and other criminal legislations for crime.
  • In tort law, the plaintiff must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not that the defendant's actions caused harm. The burden of proof in criminal law is more stringent, requiring the prosecution to demonstrate the defendant's guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
  • In tort the consequences are less serious as compared to the consequences in crime.
  • In tort cases, resolutions involve compensating the injured party through judgments or settlements, with the defendant paying damages or fulfilling obligations. In criminal cases, outcomes include a verdict of innocence or guilt followed by sentencing, potentially involving fines, probation, community service, or imprisonment, depending on the offense's severity and other factors.
  • In tort cases, proceedings begin with the plaintiff filing a complaint, followed by a period of discovery for evidence exchange. Cases may go to trial or be resolved through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. In criminal proceedings, there's arraignment, pretrial hearings, and a trial with evidence and witness testimony before a judge or jury.
  • The burden of proof is less in tort cases in comparison to that in criminal trial.
  • In tort cases, the government's role is limited to enforcing civil laws and regulations. However, in criminal cases, the government plays a significant role, with law enforcement agencies investigating offenses, gathering evidence, and arresting suspects. Prosecutors represent the state, deciding whether to file charges and pursue criminal proceedings against the accused.
  • In tort cases, the plaintiff initiates legal action to seek compensation for damages from the defendant. In criminal cases, the state, represented by the prosecutor, brings charges against the defendant on behalf of society, with the victim potentially serving as a witness but not responsible for prosecuting the offender.
  • Statutes of limitations vary between tort and criminal cases. In tort law, they typically range from one to several years, barring the plaintiff from filing after the specified period. In criminal law, statutes are generally longer, with serious offenses often having no limit. Certain crimes, like murder, can be prosecuted at any time.
  • In tort law, the standard of conduct is negligence-based, expecting individuals to act reasonably to avoid harm, with breaches leading to negligence claims. In criminal law, conduct standards are set by statutory law, categorizing offenses by severity and required culpability levels, ranging from minor infractions to serious felonies.
  • Intent is crucial in both tort and criminal law, albeit in distinct manners. In tort law, intent may impact liability and damages, with intentional torts involving deliberate harm like assault. Negligence, however, focuses on lack of reasonable care, not intent. In criminal law, intent is fundamental; crimes like murder demand proof of specific intent.
  • In tort cases, the primary aim is compensating victims and restoring them to their pre-harm state through monetary damages. Conversely, in criminal cases, punishment serves to deter future crimes, maintain societal norms, and provide justice, often through fines, probation, community service, or incarceration.
  • The key difference lies in the nature of the wrongful act. Tort law addresses civil wrongs causing harm or injury to individuals or property, involving private disputes. Conversely, criminal law deals with offenses against society, prosecuted by the state for actions deemed harmful to public welfare.
  • The fear of arrest of the tort feasor or accused person is less in tort as compared to that in crime.
  • In tort police does not conduct formal investigation, but in crime formal investigation is done by the investigating police officer.
  • In tort no FIR is lodged or charge sheet submitted, but in crime FIR is lodged and charge sheet may be submitted.
  • Police normally does not intervene in tort, but they are obligated to intervene in crime.
  • Tort cases are normally filed in civil court. In crime the complaint is always reported at the police station and in some cases, it is filed through the direction of court.
  • The standard of proof in tort cases is typically a balance of probabilities, whereas criminal cases require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

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