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Vicarious Liability Of The State

Vicarious liability refers to situations in which one person is held liable for the actions of another. As a result, in a situation involving vicarious liability, both the person ordering the act and the person ordering it are liable. As a result, employers are held accountable for the torts committed by their employees while they were working for them.

Common instances of such a liability include:

  1. The principal is liable for the wrongdoing of his agent.
  2. Partners' liability for each other's wrongdoing.
  3. The master's liability for his servant's negligence.
  4. The State's or the Administration's liability.

Constituents of Vicarious Liability

So the constituents of vicarious liability are:
  1. There must be a relationship of a particular type.
  2. The wrongdoing must be somehow connected to the relationship.
  3. The wrong has been done within the course of employment.

Vicarious Liability Of The State

Here, the words "administration" and "state" are interchangeable. It is a difficult question to answer whether the government would be held accountable for the wrongdoings of its employees, especially in developing nations where the scope of state involvement is expanding. The Constitution's clauses and the public law principles inherited from British common law govern the government's tort liability.

Three guiding principles serve as the foundation for the concept of state vicarious liability for the wrongs carried out by its agents:

  1. Respondeat Superior (Let The Principal Be Liable).
  2. Quifacit Per Alium Facit Per Se (He Who Acts Through Another Does It Himself).
  3. Socialization Of Compensation.

Vicarious Liability of State in India

According to Article 300 of the Constitution, the position of State liability is as follows: In accordance with Clause (1) of Article 300 of the Constitution, the Government of India may sue or be sued by the name of the Union of India and the Government of a State may sue or be sued by the name of the State.

Additionally, the Government of India or the Government of a State may sue or be sued in relation to their respective affairs in similar circumstances to those in which the Dominion of India and the corresponding Provinces or the corresponding Indian States might have sued or been sued "if this Constitution had not been enacted" Thirdly, any provisions that may be made by an Act of Parliament or the Legislature of such State, enacted in accordance with authority granted by the Constitution, shall be subject to the second mentioned rule.

State Liability

According to the dictum "The King can do no wrong" in English common law, the King was not responsible for the wrongs committed by his or her servants. The Crown Proceedings Act of 1947 altered the position of the old Common law maxim in England, though. Before, the King could not be held liable in a tort case for any wrong that was actually authorised by it or that was carried out by its servants while they were working for it.

The Crown Proceedings Act was passed in response to the growing state's functions, and as a result, the Crown is now equally responsible for any wrongdoing carried out by its employees as a private person. Similar to this, in America, the Federal Torts Claims Act, 1946, lays out the guiding principles and essentially settles the issue of State liability.

Pre-Constitution Judicial Decisions relating to Vicarious Liability of State:

Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company v Secretary:
It drew a very distinct line between the state's sovereign and non-sovereign functions.

Secretary of State v. Hari Bhanji:

In this case, the Madras High Court ruled that only state acts were immune from prosecution. Although the P & O Case ruling provided examples of situations where the immunity was applicable, it did not extend beyond acts of State.

Post Constitution Judicial Decisions relating to Vicarious Liability of State

State of Rajasthan v. Vidyawati:

In this case, it was decided that the State should share in the same tort liability as any other employer for torts committed by its employee while acting in the course and scope of his employment.

Kasturilal v. State of UP:

The court ruled in this case that the respondent's employee committed the act that gave rise to the current claim for damages while performing work-related duties. Additionally, that employment fell under the umbrella of sovereign power. This absolved the state of all responsibility.

The State, not the government, is the party sought to be held liable in each of the cases previously discussed. According to the government, the statutory authority is neither accountable to it nor subordinate to it. Therefore, the government cannot be held accountable for the effects of a bad decision made by a statutory authority.

Given that the State passed the statute through its legislative branch, it is not permitted to make any such argument. Additionally, the Statute itself or any other authority that the Statute may authorise appoints the authority. In this situation, the statutory authority's action is taken for and on behalf of the State. As a result, the state is responsible.

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