Crocs for crocodiles. Yes!
Torts for tortoises?
No! It’s funny but it is not correct!
If you have studied law or have ever visited any law student friend of yours or in any way have come across some book or article titled “law of torts”, it’s a bet you would have had your attention caught right there on the word “torts”. Students of law themselves get fascinated the first time they see this law. Studying it is even more fun. The cases are so entertaining and amazing, all connected to nothing but your everyday normal life.
Tort is basically a word for “wrong” in French.
It is a wrong involving a breach of a civil duty towards someone except a contractual one where it is different from crime in that it is a duty towards a particular person and not the whole society. Important here is that its remedy is an action for unliquidated damages. If there is no action for damages then it is not a tort.
To restate that in English (pun intended). A tort is a wrong someone does that causes some kind of loss to a person for which a court may award money which has not been predetermined. It should not be included in any kind of contract and should also be not an act that is a wrong against everyone in society unlike a crime such as a murder which is wrong against the whole society as it creates fear in everyone and affects everyone’s safety.
In even simpler words, a Tort is violating a person’s legal right which causes such loss to that person which entitles him to get monitory compensation for his loss from that violator.
The law of torts is fascinating. It comes into play at very small places.
Your car is parked inside your house boundary. A big tree branch from your neighbour’s garden is spread across your boundary over some of your garden area giving shade to that particular spot. You enjoy that and you place your car deliberately at that spot, itself, to save your car from scorching sun rays. One day, to your misfortune, that very lovable branch of tree decides that you should buy a new car and falls down over your car. What would you do? Go to the court, say that it was your neighbour’s responsibility to prune his tree and because of his tree your car is damaged?
Law of torts includes various principles of its own and various kinds of acts such as
Following is an example of negligence and contributory negligence act:-
Unfortunately, one day, out of sheer compulsion and/or for your thirst of adventurousness, you decide to sit on the roof of a bus. The driver drives the bus not so carefully. While passing the bus under a tree, one of its branches hits you and you fall down and die. What does your wife do? (Supposedly, you have one.)
She goes to a lawyer who tells her that it was a case of negligence. This is where our God of civil wrongs enter, our dear old Law of torts.
You see! There has been wrong done by the driver by making you sit on the roof where people are not supposed to sit considering the fact that a roof is not a place to sit, it doesn’t have fixed chairs and it is obviously dangerous and then he drives carelessly to have taken the bus under a low lying tree branch. The driver has not fulfilled his reasonable duty of care. He was negligent about your safety. So, the court hearing your lawyer’s arguments starts considering giving your wife compensation for the driver’s negligence but before your wife can rejoice the idea of having enough money to marry again, she gets a pang of your stupidity that you sat on the top of bus. The court hearing the opposite parties’ lawyer decides to reduce the compensation because there was a contributory negligence. Now what the hack is contributory negligence?
The term is pretty much self-explanatory. There is your humble contribution to that negligence and out of gratitude the court reduces your compensation. It is expected from a normal average individual to know that traveling by bus sitting on the roof is dangerous and agreeing to such a dare shall contribute to his own risk. Your wife’s argument that you were a distant cousin of Mr Bean shall not help her cause at all.
Here, all that is, is the point that even after it being so simple the people in India hardly go for any tortious claims of theirs. They are so tolerant or may be ignorant of this law that they never really care to get any compensation for the wrongs that are done to them on daily basis. The proportion is really very low.
Has it ever happened that you were walking on the side of the road and a biker passes by you and sprays this red panmasala on your newly bought white t-shirt of yours? Whether he does it intentionally or you just happen to come in his way, your t -shirt’s life is over. What would you do?
You have been wronged and somebody is responsible for it. So he is got to pay for it shouldn’t he?
The law of torts ensures that you get justice in these kinds of wrongs where the wrong is not so huge that it could affect your life but it is surely necessary to be exercised so that people remain careful and aware of other’s rights and their own duties towards others.
Student, Amity Law School, Delhi (GGSIP University)
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]