The word tort has been derived from the word “tortum”, which is a Latin term which means “twist”. Tort law refers to wrongful activities in which the perpetrator infringes on the legal rights of another person. The law imposes an obligation to respect the legal rights vested in society’s members, and anyone who fails to do so is considered to have committed a wrongful conduct. Intentional conduct, breach of duty, or statutory violations can all result in violations.
Assault was defined in the case of A.C Cama vs H.F Morgan as “Any gesture calculated to excite in the party threatened a reasonable apprehension that the party threatening intends immediately to offer violence, or in the language of the Indian Penal Code, is ‘about to use criminal force’ to the person threatened, constitute, if coupled with a present ability to carry such intention in execution, an assault in law.”
In simple terms , assault in common law is an act of the defendant which causes to the plaintiff reasonable apprehension of the infliction of physical harm on him by the defendant.
INGREDIENTS OF ASSAULT:
1) Threat or an attempt to commit corporeal hurt: The assailant makes an attempt or threatens to cause physical harm to someone can be called an attempt to cause corporeal hurt.
Future threats are insufficient in nature in order to constitute the act of assault.
2) Intention: As explained in the case of Tuberville vs Savage, an act of assault consists of an act along with the intention to assault. Hence there has to be an unjustified and deliberate interference with the liberty of a person which leads to the person being caused harm.
3) Reasonable apprehension: The words apprehension and fear are usually confused with each other. Apprehension can be defined as the “awareness that an injury or offensive contact is imminent” as established in the case of Satna Majhi Vs. State of Assam
4) Apparent present ability: The evident ability of the assailant to cause corporeal hurt can be called apparent present ability. Not every threat is an assault as mentioned in the case of Stephen vs Myersas “there should be means of carrying the threat into effect”
Self-defence: If the defendant was acting in self-defence, this could be a defence. They should only use or demonstrate the amount of force that is necessary in the scenario and proportional to the force used against them.
Intoxication: In some situations, intoxication can be used as a legal defence, particularly when it impairs a person’s capacity to act deliberately.
Coercion: If the defendant was forced to strike under threat of damage, coercion may be a defence (for example, if they are being held at gunpoint and for assault at the behest of someone).
Lack of proof/proof: As previously stated, if the elements of proof are not identified or supported by the appropriate evidence, it can serve as a legal defense.
In the case of Read vs Coker:
Facts: The plaintiff was present at the defendant’s shop, while looking around, the defendant asked the plaintiff to leave and upon the plaintiff’s refusal to do so, the defendant called upon several others to surround the plaintiff. The people gathered around him, rolled up their sleeves and threatened to break his neck if he didn’t leave.
Ratio: Jervis CJ stated, “If anything short of actual striking will in law constitute an assault, the facts here clearly showed that D was guilty of an assault. There was a threat of violence exhibiting an intention to assault, and a present ability to carry the threat into execution.”
Judgement: The court held that the defendant thought there was reasonable apprehension of corporeal hurt if he did not leave the shop. Hence, it constituted as an assault by their actions and words.
In the case of Bavisetti Venkat Surya Rao v. Nandipati Muthayya
Facts: Plaintiff owed the defendant a particular sum that he was unable to pay. In order to retrieve the money, the defendant planned to go to plaintiff’s house and sell some personal property.
The defendant hired a goldsmith to assess the value of gold in plaintiff’s home, but the person standing near the house at the time of the evaluation borrowed the money from someone else to provide it to the defendant, and after the defendant had taken the money, the plaintiff sued him for assault.
Judgement: It was decided that there was no assault because the defendants said and did nothing following the entrance of the Goldsmith, and the threat of use of force by the Goldsmith to the plaintiff was too remote a possibility to have put the plaintiff in dread of immediate or instant harm.
In the case of Turberville vs Savage :
Facts: Tuberville put his palm on his sword and replied, “I wouldn’t accept such language from you if it weren’t assize time.” Tuberville was sued by Savage for assault.
Issue: What are the elements of the tort of assault?
Judgement: At least one of the following must be present to be responsible for assault: 1. an act intended to place another person under harmful control, or imminent apprehension, or 2. a third person placed under apprehension if he believes the individual can inflict harm. Even if the other party can defend against the action, an assault occurs, and the action is not unavoidable. Threats of harm in the future are insufficient.
There was no assault since the defendants said and did nothing following the entrance of the Goldsmith, and the threat of use of force by the Goldsmith against the plaintiff was too remote a possibility to have put the plaintiff in dread of urgent or instant harm.
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