False imprisonment is called wrongful confinement in the Indian Penal code. It is basically unlawfully restraining a person’s way in all the directions in order to prevent him from moving in a direction for some period. The period may be small or long. False imprisonment is a tort which is intentional in nature.
Essentials of false imprisonment
- Knowledge of the plaintiff – this tort is actionable per se and therefore it is not necessary that person so confined has to be aware of the confinement or harm caused by it. If a person is restrained in a room and the person does not know the existence of any other way out, the defendant in such a case shall still be liable for the same.
- Period of confinement – this factor is not of utmost importance except in the case of deciding for damages. Lawful detention may become unlawful if a person so confined is confined for a prolonged period.
- Place of confinement– It is required that a person is a put in a situation or area from where the person cannot escape constituting a tort of false imprisonment. It is not necessary to put the person behind the bars.
“In Bird v Jones a public right of way ran through an enclosure created by the defendants for the purpose of viewing a boat race. The plaintiff in an attempt to use the right of way entered the enclosure. The defendants prevented the plaintiff from walking through the enclosure and instead instructed him to run back and reach the destination through some other route. The plaintiff refused to move and stayed in the enclosure for half an hour.
The plaintiff sued the defendants claiming that they had committed false imprisonment. The claim was rejected: the defendant had done nothing that completely restricted the plaintiff’s freedom of movement. The plaintiff had been free to leave the enclosure and find any different route for getting to the place he wanted to.”
- The intention of the defendant – generally, the tort is intentional in nature. A person is liable for the tort of false imprisonment if does the act with the motive of causing confinement or if he has the knowledge that confinement will be the result of his act. Even the negligent acts on the part of the defendant can be qualified as false imprisonment. For example, if a person is unaware of the presence of somebody in the room and subsequently locks the room, he will still be liable for false imprisonment.
CAUSE OF ACTION
A plaintiff, in case of false imprisonment, can be compensated for if:
- Is physically injured;
- Suffers mentally;
- Suffers any loss in earnings;
- Injury to the reputation is caused;
- Is deprived of any right due to loss of liberty;
- Necessary and reasonable expenses incurred.
- Volenti non-fit injuria: i.e. voluntary assumption of the risk. If the plaintiff agrees to act in the way the defendant requests by his own free will, he is not imprisoned in such a case. If a person entering the premises of some other person on certain terms which involve some restrictions on his liberty he cannot complain of false imprisonment.
- Contributory negligence: if there was negligence on the part of the plaintiff too, the damages will be reduced to that extent.
- Probable cause: if the probable cause is established then in such a case, the action for false imprisonment completely fails. Even malicious motives cannot be used to support a claim once the probable cause is established. Necessity can be one of the probable causes.
- Consent: if the plaintiff himself consents to the act he cannot complain of false imprisonment. This consent must be a free consent i.e. free from coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation, fraud, etc. factors given in the Indian Contract Act, 1872.
If the defendant acted in support of the law, his act of imprisonment is justified. But here the burden of proof lies on the defendant to prove the legal justification.
The two mentioned below are no defenses for the tort of false imprisonment:
- Reasonable care
- Acting in good faith
Article 22 of the Indian constitution puts an obligation on the state to follow the procedure as prescribed therein while arresting a person and it also provides for protecting a person from unlawful arrest.
REMEDIES IN LAW
- Damages: false imprisonment being a tort is actionable for damages. A plaintiff can demand three types of damages:
- Punitive damages or exemplary damages;
- Compensatory or nominal damages;
- Aggravated damages.
- Habeas corpus: the writ of habeas corpus mentioned under article 32 of the Indian Constitution requires the presentation of the person who is under arrest, before court or judge. The word ‘habeas corpus’ is a Latin term meaning ‘u have the body’ which is generally exercised for reporting the unlawful detention to the court by the government officials. It is a procedural remedy only and is a guarantee against any unlawful detention. The Supreme Court and high courts have jurisdiction to issue this writ under article 32 and 226 respectively.
Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees to the people whether nationals or foreigners are right of personal liberty and prohibits any inhuman treatments. In case of violation of this right, the provisions of article 14 of the Constitution which provide for equal protection of law and right to equality will be attracted.
- Self-help: an unlawfully detained person can use reasonable force or other means to escape from such confinement in order to help himself/ herself.
Some immunity is being given to executive and judicial officers against liability in false imprisonment’s cases. For example, If a judge gave orders for detention or arrest under his jurisdiction to do so and in good faith believes that he has such jurisdiction to do so, he cannot be made liable for damages for false imprisonment. But if a judge or magistrate does so, with a mala fide intention or in a reckless manner then he will be liable for false imprisonment.
BIRD v. JONES: in this case, the defendant wrongfully encloses a part of the public footway. Seats were put up there and entry was allowed to only those who paid for watching the rowing there. The plaintiff asserted his right to use that footway, climbed up the fence of the enclosure but was prevented to go forward. He remained there for half an hour.
HELD: Not a case of false imprisonment as there was no “total restraint”. The plaintiff could have easily taken another way.
The restraint we talk of here refers to the total restraint where a person has no way to escape. Therefore, for the commission of a tort of false imprisonment, it is necessary that the person is confined from moving in all the directions.