• Legis Scriptor

Kasturilal Ralia Ram Jain v. State of Uttar Pradesh

Authored By- Ayushi Patil

Keywords- Police Officers, Sovereign, Tortious Liability.


1965 AIR 1039, [1965] SCR (1) 375

Name of the Parties:


Kasturilal Ralia Ram Jain


The State of Uttar Pradesh


Hon’ble Judges/Coram: Gajendragadkar, P.B (CJ), Wanchoo,K.N., Hidayatullah,M., Dayal, Raghubar, Mudholkar, J.R

Year of Judgement

29th September 1964

Abstract India as a state is a mixed economy with a huge population. Being a semi-socialistic economy, the government plays an important role in all aspects of the economy. There is a lot of interference of citizens and interaction with states like trading with government companies or police or state officers and the state is liable for the cause of any harm.

The maxim ‘the king can do no wrong’ and the common rule ‘crown was not answerable for the torts committed by its servants’ was never applied in India. The East India company earlier came to India for trading and started to rule the parts of the country with the law passed by the British Parliament and later on the company dissolved and rules passed over to the British Crown. Later on, the liability of the state was the major question in pre-independence a distinction was made between sovereign and non-sovereign functions. Hence, the scope of sovereign or non-sovereign functions was not clearly defined and it was fully dependent on the judiciary system. Introduction

In the Supreme Court of India, the question of liability of state raised for consideration many times. The same occurred in the case of Kasturilal Ralia Ram Jain v. State of UP[1]. A partner of Kasturilal Raliaram, Amritsar firm of jewellery went to Meerut for selling gold and silver. He was taken to police custody and kept lock for possession of stolen property and recovered all the gold and silver. Later on it got bailed but gold could not be returned to him because the head constable in charge of the malkhana misappropriated it and fled to Pakistan. The U.P. Police didn’t follow the regulations in taking care of gold and the court stated that the state was not liable for the offence committed by police officers of the tort in the exercise of delegated sovereign powers.

Background of the Case:

Absolute immunity of the government was not recognised in the Indian legal system prior to the commencement of the Constitution and in a number of cases the government was held liable for tortious acts of its servants.

Tort law in India

Tort has been in existence since the pre-independence era in India. There are certain differences which may indicate judicial activism as UK approaches are generally followed by India with creating controversy. Tort law has not been codified like her common-law counterparts, stems from both statute and common law.


Ralia Ram, partner of the firm is the Appellant which deals with selling jewellery in Amritsar. On 20th September, 1947 Ralia Ram arrived at Meerut his aim was to sell gold and silver. While he was passing for the same he was taken to police custody by three police constables. His belongings, which included gold and silver were taken and he was locked up in the police station. The jewellery were seized from him. Later on he got bailed and only silver was returned to him; he demanded for gold which had been seized from him, but he couldn’t recover his jewellery which was seized by officers as one of the police officers fled with gold to Pakistan. Hence, he filed a suit against the police officers who were the respondent for the case.


1. Whether the police officers in question were guilty of negligence in the matter of taking care of the gold which had been seized from Ralia Ram?

2. Whether the respondent was liable to compensate the appellant for the loss caused to it by the negligence of the public servants employed by the respondent?


The state was not liable as the act was done by the police officers in exercise of sovereign powers this was held by the Supreme court. The power to arrest a person, to search him, and to seize his property are the powers conferred on the police officers by statue as sovereign powers.

Concept Highlighted

Kasturilal Ralia Ram Jain v. State of Uttar Pradesh case talks about State liability for tortious acts of its servants which is based on Article 300(1) of Constitution of India.

1. Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company v Secretary[2]: The principle of this case holds that if any act was done in the exercise of sovereign functions, the East India Company or the State would not be liable.

2. Secretary of State v. Hari Bhanji[3]: In this case, the Madras High Court held that State immunity was confined to acts of State. In the P & O Case, the ruling did not go beyond acts of State, while giving illustrations of situations where the immunity was available.

3. State of Haryana v. Santra[4]: The ratio of this case was on the principles of state liability for negligence. Here it was clearly established that the doctor while performing the operation was acting as a government servant and acting in the course of employment of the government. Hence when there was negligence, it amounted to acting in bad faith, and so the defence of sovereign immunity could not be used by the state. Moreover it was also held that such negligence which could have been perceived by a professional who had a duty to do so should take into consideration these matters and cannot escape liability by claiming defence of consent by the petitioner.


It held that officers were negligent in the discharge of their duties and responsibilities but they can’t be claimed against the loss suffered by the appellant due to negligence of the police because they were doing their sovereign functions. This case is pure injustice by barring damages to the Appellant because of the respondent.

Sovereign immunity is a common law of doctrine originated by the courts decisions it was justified as grounds that the king could do no wrong. If there were no involving tort liability the state would perform duties more effectively and efficiently. It is difficult for an individual to suffer then for the public. Hence it is no longer valid in today’s society now the recovery for tortious is conducted merely because of the status of the wrongdoer.

Now there is a fundamental Right for compensation for illegal acts of employees of the state. Furthermore, I conclude to plan in advance by securing liability insurance or by creating funds necessary for self-insurance.

[1] 1965 AIR 1039 [2] (1861) 5 Bom HCR [3] ILR (1882) 5 Madras 273 [4] 2000 (1) CPJ 53 (SC)