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MOTIVE AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN TORTS AND ANALYSIS

MOTIVE AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN TORTS AND


ANALYSIS

RESEARCH PAPER

SUBMITTED BY: SUBMITTED TO:

NAME: RAHUL GAUTAM DR. SUBIR KUMAR

SEMESTER: 1ST ‘B’ ASSISTANT PROFESSOR

ROLL: 1065 NUSRL, RANCHI

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF STUDY AND RESEARCH IN LAW,


RANCHI

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MOTIVE AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN TORTS AND ANALYSIS

Table of Contents
RESEARCH QUESTION ....................................................................................................................... 3
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ............................................................................................................ 3
MOTIVE ................................................................................................................................................. 4
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MOTIVE AND INTENTION .................................................................... 5
LEADING CASES ................................................................................................................................... 5
 Bradford Corporation v Pickles .................................................................................... 5
 Allen v Flood .................................................................................................................... 6
 Town Area Committee v. Prabhu Dayal ........................................................................ 7
 South Wales Miners’ Federation v. Glamorgan Coal Company ................................. 7
Exceptions to Rule................................................................................................................................... 8
RECENT CASES ..................................................................................................................................... 9
 Amitava Banerjee v. State of West Bengal .................................................................... 9
 Anil Kumar v. State of U.P. .......................................................................................... 10
CONCLUSION ..................................................................................................................................... 11
Bibliography ......................................................................................................................................... 12

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MOTIVE AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN TORTS AND ANALYSIS

RESEARCH QUESTION

Whether motive is relevant in deciding the liability of the tortfeasors?

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

For the purpose of research, the researcher has relied on various books, articles, websites
and newspaper. The sources from which the material for this research collected are
secondary. So the methodology used in the research has been Doctrinal. Non-doctrinal
method has not been used by the researcher in this research. The researcher has relied on
primary sources to look for information relating to the statutes and laws for joint
tortfeasors. The researcher has done this keeping in mind the frequently asked questions
arising out of this topic. The researcher has aimed at doctrinal method of research and will
try to critically analyse and provide an unbiased account on the joint tortfeasors

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MOTIVE AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN TORTS AND ANALYSIS

MOTIVE

Motive is the reasons behind a person's actions and may be broken down into intent and ulterior
motive. Motive is taken into account in determining liability especially in cases where the
defendant's and plaintiff's argument is evenly matched. Especially in cases of aggravated
offenses, such as fraud, violence, or cruelty, the defendant's improper motive will make it more
likely for the plaintiff to receive punitive damages, which reward the plaintiff for pain and
suffering.
In regards to personal injury law, motive is examined based on negligence and intentional
torts. A person's motive in cases of negligence, when careless actions cause harm, is not to
intentionally injure the plaintiff. Intentional torts, however, include motives to cause harm to
another person.
Motive ( or reason)and purpose are the affective mental processes that complement the
sentimental framework of crimes and which, once identified, clarifies the deeper aspects of
psychological processes which represents the internal cause of the conduct act.

Analysing and planning the definitions given to motive/reason in the literature, we can
distinguish two main trends, namely: the first is the one attributing motive the single
significance of affective mental process generator of the criminal act, and the second considers
that the motive comprises besides the emotional component other volitional and intellectual
mental process by which the perpetrator decides on its implementation.

vmotive

A motive, in law, especially criminal law, is the cause that moves people to induce a certain
action. The legal system typically allows motive to be proven in order to make plausible the
accused's reasons for committing a crime. However, motive is not essential to the maintenance
of an action for tort. A wrongful act does not become lawful merely because the motive is good.
Similarly, a lawful act does not become wrongful because of an improper, evil motive or
malice.

“It is the act and not the motive for the act that must be regarded. If the act, apart from the
motive, gives rise merely to damage with legal injury, the motive, however, reprehensible it
may be, will not supplement that element”– Salmond

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An act, otherwise lawful, cannot generally be brought into action by an averment that it was
done with evil motive. An evil motive in itself does not amount to injury or legal error. If a
person has the right to do something, then his motive is irrelevant.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MOTIVE AND INTENTION


Now, you probably are wondering what the difference between motive and intention is. The
difference is simple – Intention is to do with the immediate objective of the Act whereas motive
is to do with the ulterior objective of the act.

For instance, if Cathy poisons Randal’s food, the immediate objective (Intention) is to kill
Randal. The ulterior object of Cathy may be to secure Randal’s property by inheritance. This
ulterior objective will be the motive behind Cathy’s murderous act. Note: An act which does
not amount to a legal injury (Damnum sine injuria) cannot be actionable even if the act is
accompanied by a bad motive. For instance, A and B are neighbours. They have always disliked
each other. One day, A sank a deep borewell on his land. As a result of this, the water supply
to B his neighbour was cut short. Now, there is nothing in law to prevent A from intercepting
the underground water on his land. So, in this situation although A’s act is lawful, A’s motive
behind the same was improper. However, as explained about there can be no claim without
legal injury. Motive is relevant in the torts of defamation, nuisance and conspiracy.

LEADING CASES

The decisions of Lord Halsbury and Lord Watson in Bradford Corporation Versus Pickle and
Allen Versus Food may be treated as one of the earliest decisions that settled that motive is
irrelevant in tort.

Bradford Corporation v Pickles 1


Facts-The plaintiffs owned land beneath which were water springs that were used for more
than 40 years to supply Bradford town with water. The defendant owned land on a higher level
than the plaintiffs. Under the defendant’s land was a natural reservoir and water flowed from
this reservoir down to the plaintiffs’ springs. However, the defendant sank a shaft into his land
in order to alter the flow of the water. This seriously reduced the amount of water that flowed
into the plaintiffs’ springs. There was ample evidence to suggest that the defendant followed
this course of action, not in order to provide any direct benefit to himself, but simply so as to

1
[1895] AC 587

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deprive the plaintiffs of water. The plaintiffs insisted that this was malicious and hence that
they were entitled to an injunction to prevent the defendant acting in this manner.

Held-

Lord Halsbury L.C : This is not a case in which the state of mind of the person doing the act
can affect the right to do it. If it was a lawful act, however ill the motive might be, he had a
right to do it. Motives and intentions in such a question as is now before your Lordships seem
to me to be absolutely irrelevant.

LORD WATSON: No use of property, which would be legal if due to a proper motive, can
become illegal because it is prompted by a motive which is improper or even malicious.

Allen v Flood 2
Facts:

Flood and Walter was a shipwright employed on a ship, liable to be discharged at any time.
Fellow workers objected to their employment as they had worked for a rival employer. Allen
was a trade union representative for the other employees on the ship and approached the
employers, telling them that if they did not discharge Flood and Walter, the other employees
would strike. The employers consequently discharged Flood and Walter and refused to employ
them again, where they otherwise would. Flood and Walter brought action for maliciously
inducing a breach of contract.

Issue:

Whether the judge erred in finding that Allen had induced a procurement of contract
unlawfully.

Held:

The decision was reversed, finding that Allen had not violated any legal rights of Flood and
Walter. There was no legal right for them to be employed by employer and Allen had not
carried out an unlawful act and had not used any unlawful means, in procuring the employee’s

2
[1898] AC 1

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dismissal. Allen was found to have made a representation to the employers of what would
happen if they continued to employee Flood and Walter. He relied the events of what he
believed would happen and the employers believed him. This was not considered to be an
obstruction or disturbance of any right: it was not the procurement of the violation of any right.
Allen’s conduct was not actionable, however malicious or bad his motive might be.

The courts in India have also spoken about the non-relevance of motive as well as malice in
tort. In Vishnu Basudeo V. T.H.S Pearse3 and Town Area Committee V. Prabhu 4courts have
held that it is to be seen if the act is lawful, then motive with which it was done is of little
significance.

The courts in India have also spoken about the non-relevance of motive as well as malice in
tort. In Town Area Committee V. Prabhu dayal [AIR 1975 All 132], courts have held that it is
to be seen if the act is lawful, then motive with which it was done is of little significance.

Town Area Committee v. Prabhu Dayal


It was held that the defendants were not liable as no “injuria” could be proved because if a
person constructs a building illegally, the demolition of such building by the municipal
authorities would not amount to causing “injuria” to the owner of the property.

South Wales Miners’ Federation v. Glamorgan Coal Company


It is an illustration to explain the first aspect of the rule, i.e., that a wrongful act is not converted
into a lawful act by a good motive.

In this case , the plaintiffs, the owners of coalmines, brought an action against the defendants,
a miners’ union, for inducing its workmen to make the breach of contract of their employment
by ordering them to take certain holidays. The act of defendants was not actuated by any ill
will but the object was to keep up the price of coal by which the wages were regulated.

The house of lords held the defendants liable.

3
AIR 1949 NAG 364
4
AIR 1975 All 132

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MOTIVE AS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT IN TORTS AND ANALYSIS

The courts in India have also spoken about the non-relevance of motive as well as malice in
tort. In Vishnu Basudeo V. T.H.S Pearse [AIR 1949 NAG 364] and Town Area Committee
V. Prabhu Dayal [AIR 1975 All 132], courts have held that it is to be seen if the act is lawful,
then motive with which it was done is of little significance.

Exceptions to Rule
There are certain categories of tort where the motive may be an essential element and thus
relevant to the determination of liability:

In the case of deceit, malicious prosecution, injurious falsehood and defamation, where the
defence of fair comment or privilege is available. The defence of qualified privilege shall be
accessible only if it has been published in good faith.

In case of conspiracy, interference with the trade or contractual relations.

In cases of nuisance, causing personal discomfort by an unlawful motive may turn an otherwise
lawful act into nuisance (held in the case of Palmer v. Loder5).

In the leading case the headnote is, "No use of property which would be legal if due to a proper
motive can become illegal because it is prompted by a motive which is improper or even
malicious." This case followed an earlier judgment of the House of Lords to the effect that an
owner has a right to sink wells even though this should cut the veins of his neighbour's springs.
In that case Lord Wensleydale says the English law on the question of malicious use of property
is different from the civil law. "The civil law deems an act, otherwise lawful in itself, illegal if
done with a malicious intent of injuring a neighbour

5
(1962) CLY 2333

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Garratt v. Dailey6

A young boy whose name was Brian pulled a chair from underneath Ruth Garratt as she went
to sit down. Ruth fell and broke her hip because of Brian’s chair-pulling. Ruth filed a lawsuit
against the family of Brian claiming to have acted intentionally, causing her personal injury.
Although Brian did not intend to cause injury, the court found that the act resulted in the hip
being broken and awarded Ruth $11,000 in damages. Brian’s family appealed on the grounds
that children 5 years of age could not be held liable for an intentional tort. The court ruled
that children can be held liable and that the intent element is in place if the person knew with
certainty that the act carries a risk of injury.

IMPORTANCE OF MOTIVE

Motive is important in criminal law as it is the cause that makes a person do a certain action.
Understanding the motive behind a crime helps in the understanding of the crime. Motive in
itself is not a necessary element of any crime or offense however, by proving motive it is
possible to understand the accused’s reasons for committing a crime.

For example motive is important in prosecutions for homicide. Homicides motivated by


factors such as sudden heat of passion, provocation etc are lesser offenses than murder which
requires that the accused knowingly and voluntarily kill the victim.

RECENT CASES

Amitava Banerjee v. State of West Bengal7

On the aspect of importance of motive in a case of circumstantial evidence, the judgment of


the Supreme Court in (2011) 12 SCC 554, Amitava Banerjee v. State of West Bengal also sheds
valuable light. The legal position as laid down by Wills in his book ‗Circumstantial Evidence'
and in prior judicial pronouncements was relied upon by the court which may usefully be
extracted and reads as follows:

Motive for the commission of an offence no doubt assumes greater importance in cases resting
on circumstantial evidence than those in which direct evidence regarding commission of the
offence is available. And yet failure to prove motive in cases resting on circumstantial evidence
is not fatal by itself. All that the absence of motive for the commission of the offence results in

6
46 Wash. 2d 197, 279 P.2d 1091
7
(2011) 12 SCC 554
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is that the court shall have to be more careful and circumspect in scrutinizing the evidence to
ensure that suspicion does not take the place of proof while finding the accused guilty.

Anil Kumar v. State of U.P.8

Reliance has also been placed on 2011 (5) AD (Delhi) 351, Anil Kumar v. State wherein it was
held as follows: -
It has been urged by the learned Amicus Curiae that where the case depends solely on
circumstantial evidence, it is essential for the prosecution to prove motive for commission of
the crime. This is true that the present case is based solely on circumstantial evidence and the
prosecution has not come out with any motive for the Appellant to have committed the murder
of his Mami. But there is always motive for commission of any crime. The Courts look for
some motive in circumstantial evidence because it provides an additional link, to the Court that
it is the accused who has committed the crime.

We find no force in the contention. Undoubtedly in cases of circumstantial


evidences motive bears important significance. Motive always locks up in the mind of the
accused and some time it is difficult to unlock. People do not act wholly without motive. The
failure to discover the motive of an offence does not signify its non-existence. The failure
to prove motive is not fatal as a matter of law. Proof of motive is never an indispensable for
conviction. When facts are clear it is immaterial that no motive has been proved. Therefore,
absence of proof of motive does not break the link in the chain of circumstances connecting
the accused with the crime, nor militates against the prosecution case.

8
(2011) 11 SCC 351

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CONCLUSION

To conclude, in law of torts, it may or may not be essential to prove the existence of mental
element or motive or mala-fide intent to fix liability upon tortfeasor. In tort, the liability can be
incurred regardless of whether the injury was inflicted intentionally or by accident. But there
may situations where it has to be seen how essential mental element is in determining tortious
liability.

It can be said that the asserted unimportance of the defendant's motive underlying acts giving
rise to tort liability is part of the conventional wisdom of most writers of basic tort texts. With
changing times, the scope of torts enlarged and the presence or absence of mental element
would not absolve a wrong doe from tortious liability. Of course, the presence of mental
element, only aggravates the liability.

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Bibliography

1. R.K. BANGIA’S LAW OF TORTS


2. WWW.MANUPATRAFAST.COM
3. https://indiankanoon.org/
4. HARVARD LAW REVIEW

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