The origin of tort of conspiracy takes us to early days in Britain where writ
of conspiracy was included in the law. it was limited to abuse of legal action
and legal procedure in the nature of conspiracy. it was recognised in the reign
of Queen Elizabeth I but nowadays it has been developed into the present-day
tort of malicious prosecution. In the 17th century, Conspiracy was developed as
a crime by the Star chamber in Britain. In the common law courts, conspiracy
was not only considered as a crime but was also made the primary source of
In 19th century, through the judgment in the case of Crofter Hand Woven Harris
Tweed Co Ltd V Veitch3it was declared that conspiracy remains criminal as well
as a tort. the only basic difference is that criminal conspiracy remains under
the criminal law act, 1977 whereas civil conspiracy has a wider scope and is
not dictated by any statute. Any conspiracy which fulfils the essential elements
or criteria of civil conspiracy may suffer civil liabilities.
In India, tort of conspiracy remains uncodified whereas criminal conspiracy is
governed under the sections 120A and 120B of the IPC. The tort of conspiracy
has been adopted from the Britain law itself and it is regulated by the
principles of justice, equity, common law, good conscience and the other
Types Of Tort Of Conspiracy
There are two types of civil conspiracy:
- Crofter Conspiracy - Conspiracy to Injure
- Unlawful means - Conspiracy
Crofter Conspiracy – Conspiracy To Injure
If there is a combination of persons whose purpose is to cause damage to the
claimant. Then, that purpose may render unlawful acts which would otherwise be
lawful and which would be lawful if committed by one person even with the
purpose of causing injury. This has been already stated in the Crofter Hand
Woven Harris Tweed Co Ltd v Veitch. In the crofter conspiracy, the pre-dominant
purpose of the association or combination is to the other party.
The court in
the previous case held it clearly that the tort of conspiracy exists when if
the predominant purpose of a combination is to injure another in his trade or
business or in his other legitimate interests then, if damage results.
Malice in the sense of malevolence, spite or ill will is not essential for
liability. Nor is it sufficient if merely superadded to a legitimate purpose.
here what is required is that the combiners should have acted in order that the
claimant should suffer damage. if the combiners acted to pursue their own
advantage. then, they are not liable under this. However, selfish their
attitude and however inevitable the claimant's damage may have been.
Viscount Simon said that:
Predominant purpose is to damage another person and
damage results, that is tortious conspiracy. If the predominant purpose is the
lawful protection or promotion of any lawful interest of the combiners, it is
not a tortious conspiracy, even though it causes damage to another person.
Therefore, there is no actionable conspiracy where the defendants act to improve
their share of the market at the claimant's expense12 or to strengthen the
position of a trade union or its members or to maintain prices in the trade to
the common benefit of the members.
Unlawful Means Conspiracy
In the unlawful means conspiracy, there is an arrangement or agreement between
two or more associations or parties that at least one of them will use
'unlawful' means against the claimant. The claimant must have suffered loss
although damage to the claimant need not to be the predominant intention.
There are basically two elements in the unlawful means conspiracy:
If the mentioned two elements are fulfilled, then the defendants are proven to
be liable for unlawful-means conspiracy
- Unlawful means:
unlawful act mean that acts or threats of acts which are
civilly wrongful and actionable or acts that are criminal but which would not
be civilly actionable if done by one person.
- Intention of the defendant:
In tort, it is not just a criterion that damage
is done by the defendants through unlawful means but the combiners must have
the intention to cause damage to the claimant. This type does not require a
predominant purpose to injure the claimant. The damage to the claimant must be
an essential element to achieve the intention, or to fulfil the motive for which
the conspiracy was made.
In this case of Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co. Ltd. v. Veitch, the
defendant Veitch was a trade union, directed the dockers to refuse to handle the
plaintiff's goods, without any breach of contract. The dockers were also the
part of the union. The objective of this step taken by the defendant was to
reduce the competition in the yarn trade market. thus, this will help in
increasing their profit and thus increasing wages of the union members working
in the mill.
The predominant purpose of the defendant's act was to improve the
economic prospects of its members in the mills. it was held that their actions
were not motivated by any intention to injure the plaintiff and there were not
any unlawful means involved. so, they were not held liable.
Case Laws In Tort Of Conspiracy
- Pepsi Foods Ltd. and Others v. Bharat Coca-Cola Holdings Pt. Ltd.:
The plaintiffs were involved in the manufacture, distribution and selling of
soft drinks and beverages, all over the globe, including India, under the trade
mark „Pepsi . For the past six months, the plaintiffs found that not only were
the defendants resorting to unethical business practices. In most cases,
however, the conduct of the defendants was tortious interference in the
business of the Complainants.
Furthermore, it was alleged that the defendants
had entered into a conspiracy to commit Concerted ACTi-Action. Furthermore, it
was alleged that the defendants had entered into a conspiracy to commit
Concerted litigation against the plaintiffs in order to unlawfully impair their
business interests. It the defendants were claimed to be guilty of the unjust
act of treason.
On top of the plaintiffs were unable to create clear prima in
all the facts and circumstances. case facie for the grant at that stage of the
injunction. Also, the balance of convenience was not in favour of the claimants.
No irreparable damage to the plaintiffs was likely to be caused. In addition,
because the third principle of conspiracy, i.e., an open act that causes harm
to the complainant, was not met, the case was not actionable.
- Revenue and Customs Commissioners v. Total Network SL15:
A person 'A' in country 'X' was contracted to sell products to 'B' in country
'Y'. B then sold the B and C goods have paid VAT for this. B then vanished
without paying the VAT revenue. The products were sold to A by him and C and
his VAT was redeemed before the profits. The death of B was discovered then.
Conspiracy to injure could not be proven in this situation, Since the
combiners' primary aim was not to kill, but to gain benefit. But the Conspiracy
by criminal means was applicable here and they were held responsible for the
tort of Conspiracy of an illegitimate nature means conspiracy.
- Huntley v. Thornton
There was a call for the workers' union to strike. The complainant, a member of
the union, declined to comply with the demand for a strike by the union. The
suspects, the secretary and some union members wanted the plaintiff to be
removed from the union, but the union's executive council agreed not to do so.
Then, out of defiance of the appellant, the defendants made sure that the
plaintiff that he had been out of service. In this case, the defendant's actions
were primarily because of their grudge, they wanted to kill the plaintiff. The
defendants were found liable and the complainant had the right to recover
- Rotas Industries Ltd. v. Rotas Industries Staff Union
There was a strike by the employees of two manufacturing establishments. It was
illegal to strike under Section 23 read as conciliation proceedings with Section
24 of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, were pending. The problem before the
Supreme Court was whether the union was responsible for paying the
management's compensation for the damage suffered by it. Although the strike
was illegal, it was illegal because It was also illegal, but it was held that
the union was not responsible because their intention was not to cause Injury
to leadership. Their only goal was to support themselves and so they were held
- Sorrel v. Smith
The complainant, who was a supermarket newsagent, used to take R. from his
newspaper. He pulled his custom from R, and began to pick up W's newspaper. The
defendants, who were members of the London Daily newspaper circulation
committee, threatened to cut off the supply of newspapers to W if he wanted to
supply the complainant with newspapers. A lawsuit against the committee was
brought by the complainant. The defendants were held not liable, since they had
acted in this way to promote their own business interests. Their main object was
not to injure the retail newsagent i.e., the plaintiff, and so, they couldn't
be held liable.
In India, when it was under colonial rule, the definition of tort law originated
from England. There are many variations between India's tort law and other
nations, and because of the large differences in cultures, communities and
structures, certain characteristics of tort are missing in India. Tort
conspiracy in India needs further development because tort law is in the Indian
system. Absolutely uncodified and punishment for crimes is more relevant than
accountability for wrong crimes.
A conspiracy is characterized as an unlawful combination of two or more
individuals in order to do what is contrary to the law, or to do what is
harmful to another person, or to carry out an object that is not unlawful in
itself, but by illegal means. Some of the actions that are essential to a
conspiracy full, are not unlawful in themselves or do not make the individual
responsible, but, under the Tort of conspiracy, for this act, even such a person
may be held responsible.
This person, who committed the act for the purpose of the conspiracy, is held
responsible under the conspiracy tort, only because there was a mixture of
people who had a common purpose that was contrary to the law. As a consequence,
this becomes the target of the conspiratorial torture, to render all. Who did
something detrimental to another man's pay for it?
The only issue with the tort of conspiracy, in my opinion, is that it does not
make a person accountable. If, in a case of conspiracy, there are three
conspirators, and if the case does not stand against two of them, then the
third party will therefore not be tried under conspiracy. While there was wrong
done against him, this might leave the aggrieved party without any
It is also very necessary to gather evidence in conspiracy cases in order to
ensure that sufficient evidence exists to support all of the requisite elements
of the cause of action, especially with regard to the intention to act in
concert or, in other words, the conspirators' common intention.
There is also a possibility of charges being made in conspiracy, when a
corporation is carried out or a deal is made, believing that a rival may be
inflicted with financial damages, where there is any illegality, either under
criminal or tort law. To what degree must subjective knowledge of such
unlawfulness be shown? If an individual recognizes all the facts that
demonstrate unlawful means, but does not know that the means are unlawful, this
is appropriate for the Tort and conspiracy? This is a challenging problem on
which there are distinct dictations.
Those who knowingly violate the law, tort or criminal, in commercial operation
may find themselves suing for significant amounts in economic tort, by rivals,
where there is some relation between the unlawful means and the damage caused.
Therefore, to make it more ascertainable, tort conspiracy needs many amendments
and enactments in India.