• Lex Specialis


- Monika Mehra

Although a good motive might mitigate punishment or discourage prosecution, and a bad motive might aggravate punishment or encourage prosecution, it is a truism within orthodoxy that motive has no bearing on liability itself. The “irrelevance-of motive” maxim ,the claim that one’s motives are irrelevant to criminal liability has received increasing attention in light of the modern debate over hate crime, or bias crime.

A tort is a civil wrong committed against someone, in which the injured party can sue for damages. In personal injury cases, the injured party will attempt to receive compensation to cover losses due to medical expenses and to pay for damages. Tort law determines whether a person may be held legally responsible for injury against another, and what type of compensation the injured party is entitled to.


Motive is the reason 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.

It is the perspective of a man which rouses him to do a demonstration. For the most part, it implies the reason behind the commission of an act. Motive, much the same as goal, is by and large superfluous in the law of tort. As per Salmond,-“It is the act and not the motive for the act that must be respected. In the event that the act, aside from the rationale, gives rise just to harm with legal injury. The motive, however reprehensible it may be, will not supply that element.”

The choice of Lord Watson in Allen v. Flood [1] settled that Motive is unimportant in the law of torts: “Despite the fact that the principle might somehow or another concerning wrongdoing, the law of England does not consider motive as a constituting a component of civil wrong. Any intrusion of the common right of someone else is itself a lawful wrong, conveying it with the liability to repair its important or normal outcomes in so far as those are harmful to the individual whose right is encroached, whether the intention which elevated it to be great, terrible or detached.

Taking everything into account, we could say that a good motive is no avocation for acts generally unlawful and a bad motive does not make wrongful a demonstration generally legitimate.


There are sure classifications of tort where motive may be a key component and along these lines pertinent in deciding liability:

  • In the cases of deceit, malicious prosecution, injurious falsehood and defamation, where safeguard of benefit or reasonable remark is accessible. The resistance of qualified benefit is just accessible, if the distribution was made in compliance with common decency.

  • In instances of conspiracy, interference with exchange or contractual relations.

  • In instances of nuisance, bringing on of individual distress by an unlawful motive may transform a generally legal act into nuisance.


The distinction between intention and motive is far from settled. It might be thought that a clear distinction between intention and motive can be drawn, given the radical difference in treatment that follows.

Nevertheless, despite such confusion, a clear distinction between motive and intention does exist. The view of motive defended here—that motive refers not to intended consequences, but to the reason those consequences are desirable.Motive as a concept wholly distinct from intention—meaning that a motive could never be an intention, or vice versa. In ethical terms, intention is widely felt to be the strongest basis for the attribution of personal responsibility for conduct and outcomes. By contrast, in tort law intention is a much less important ground of liability than negligence. The key to explaining the relatively minor role of mens rea in tort law is found to lie in the emphasis tort law gives to the interests of victims, and to social values, in constructing its concept of responsibility. This approach also helps to explain the greater importance of mens rea in criminal law.[3] A Tortious Liability may emerge if a man brings on any harm identified with the casualty’s life, property, notoriety, and so forth. This liability is polite in nature. In law of tort, the liability can be acquired paying little heed to whether the damage was perpetrated deliberately or coincidentally.Not at all like tort, is the vicinity of mens rea correlated in criminal law. Be that as it may, in law of tort, its presence is subordinate upon the circumstances and certainties of every case. On the other hand, under the objectivist hypothesis, obsession or determination of tortious liability is exogenous as for the mental condition of the wrong practitioner. For instance it is clear on account of trespass that one can be discovered liable for it despite the fact that there was no expectation that trespass can be further illustrated by case law. In League against Cruel Sports v Scott [4], A negligent entry is conceivable and was considered in League against Cruel Sports v Scott.The Ps claimed 23 unfenced zones of area. Staghounds used to enter the area in quest of deer. The Ps sued the joint Masters of the Hounds for harms and looked for a directive against further trespasses. Park J issued an order in admiration of one territory controlling the respondents themselves, their workers or specialists, or mounted adherents, from bringing on or allowing dogs to enter or cross the property. Damages for six trespasses were granted.

The court held that “Where an expert of staghounds takes out a pack of dogs and purposely sets them in quest for a stag or rear realizing that there is a real danger that in the interest dogs may enter or cross disallowed area, the expert will be liable for trespass on the off chance that he planned to bring about the dogs to enter such land or if by his inability to practice legitimate control over them he makes them enter such land".

We should likewise comprehend that in specific circumstances, the absence of intention or a genuine oversight is a decent defense. For instance: Vicarious risk of an expert for the tort of his worker may be disregarded by a slip-up of the hireling which is outside the course of his employment.In well-known sense, Intention suggests that the respondent is totally mindful of his behavior and the characteristic results which are certain to take after. Additionally, he has a powerful urge for the event of those outcomes.

In Wilkinson v. Downston [6], the respondent kidded to the offended party that her spouse had met with a mishap and was admitted to a doctor’s facility. This news stunned her and she fell truly sick. From that point, she sued the litigant for harms under tort. The respondent fought that he never needed to bring about any mischief to the offended party however cut a joke just. The court dismissed his dispute and held him subject. Here, the court watched that mere intention is not a crucial component in tort. The respondent knew the regular and plausible outcomes of his demonstration which harmed the offended party. In this manner, he was obligated, whether he planned it or not. [5]


The relatively late pattern is to move the liability to those shoulders who can endure it or who can go on the loss to people in general. In the main instance of White v. White[6], Lord Denning observed, “late authoritative and legal advancements demonstrate that the model of liability in tort is not so much culpability, but rather on whom the danger falls?

In Indian situations acts like the Workmen Compensation Act, 1923 are acts which accommodate remuneration without considering upon the topic of obligation.

The Motor Vehicles Act accommodates an altered measure of pay if there should be an occurrence of death or perpetual handicap of the casualty’s mischance, regardless of the fact that the driver or proprietor of the vehicle is not at shortcoming. In such a case, even contributory negligence of the mishap is no guard.


[1] Allen v Flood [1898] AC 1 [3] Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Volume 20, Issue 4, WINTER , Pages 533–556 [4]Cruel Sports V Scott, [1986] QB 240 [5]Wilkinson v Downton [1897] 2 QB 57 [67]White v. White .(1950)


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