The term malice has been used in two different senses:
(1) Malice in Law- which means an act done wilfully but without any reason, cause or excuse.
(2) Malice in fact- In broadway, it means an evil motive.
. Malice in Law- Viscount Haldane described malice in Law as:
” A person who inflicts an injury upon another person in contravention of the law is not allowed to say that he did so with an innocent mind; he is taken to know the law, and he must act within the law. He may, therefore, be guilty of malice in law, although, so far the state of his mind is concerned, he acts ignorantly and in that sense innocently.”
Malice in law simply means a wrongful intention which is presumed in the case of an unlawful act, rather than a bad motive or feeling of ill will. For example- in an action of defamation, it may be said that the statement published was done so falsely and maliciously. Here it simply means, that the statement is false and is also without any lawful justification.
.Malice in fact ( evil motive)- It means an evil motive for a wrongful act. When the defendant does a wrongful act with a feeling of spite, vengeance or ill will, the act is said to be done maliciously.
Motive means an ulterior reason for the conduct. It is different from intention, which relates to the wrongful act itself. The immediate intention of a person may be to commit theft but the motive for the theft may be to buy foods for his children or to help the poor man. The question which sometimes arises as how far is the motive of a person relevant in determining the liability in tort?
As a general rule, the motive is not relevant to determine a person’s liability in the law of torts. A wrongful Act does not become lawful merely because the motive is good. Similarly, a lawful Act does not become wrongful because of a bad motive or malice.
Case Law: Town Area Committee v. Prabhu Dayal.
Facts: the plaintiff made certain construction without complying with the provisions of the U.P municipality act. The defendant demolished the construction. The plaintiff sued the defendant contending that the demolition was illegal as some of the officers of the town area committee were acting maliciously in getting the construction demolished.
Judgement was given by The Allahabad High Court: Held that the demolition of a building illegally constructed was perfectly lawful. The court did not investigate the question of whether the act was done maliciously or not as the same was considered to be irrelevant.