Relevancy of malice in tort.

In fixing liability under tort, malice is generally considered as an important factor. The word malice means spite, ill- will hatred, evil motive etc. Such malice is generally known as express malice or actual malice or malice in fact. It indicates the bad motive of a person in doing a particular act to cause evil to another.

                     Every act of an individual will have an immediate intent (object) and an ulterior motive (purpose). When a thief steals money his immediate intent is to obtain it. But his ulterior motive or to pay his debt. The law is generally concerned only with the immediate intent or the act and not its ulterior purpose. The law considers the question what the defendant has done and not why he did it.

                    The word malice in law means wrongful act done intentionally without just cause or excuse. Malice in its legal sense has been defined by Bayley. J. in Bromage v. Prosser (1829)4 B & C. 247, thus:- “Malice in common acceptation means ill- will against a person, but in its legal sense it means wrongful act done intentionally without just cause or excuse.

                            In certain eases malice or ill-will becomes relevant in determining tortious liability. This is illustrated by the following use.

               In Balak Glass Emporium v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. (AIR 1993 Ker 242), in a multi-storied building, water from the storey under the control of the defendant escaped to lower floor occupied by the plaintiff. There was ill-will between the two. It was found that the tap on the upper floor was left open. The plaintiff was held entitled to damages.

                     So a lawful act does not become unlawful merely because it is done with a bad motive or malice/Similarly a good motive does not justify an act which is otherwise illegal.

                   A leading case on this aspect is Mayer of Bradford v. Pickles (1895) A.C.587, decided by the House of Lords. In this case Pickles was annoyed at the refusal of the Bradford Corporation to purchase his land in connection with water supply scheme. So actuated by feelings of revenge Pickles sank a well in his land and abstracted the water which percolated through the soil of his land. As a result water in the nearby reservoir of the Corporation diminished to a great extent. The corporation sued for an injunction to restrain Pickles from diminishing their water. They contended that his act was unlawful because it was prompted by malice. But the House of Lords rejected the contention and the defendants were held not liable.

                    It is already settled law that the interception of underground water is not an actionable wrong, even though done intentionally.

                       Malice in law consists of implied malice and express malice. In the case of implied malice, the law will infer malice on the part of the defendant from the circumstances of the case. But express malice or malice in fact is not always malice in law.

                      Malice in law means a wrongful act done intentionally without just cause or reason. A man may be guilty of malice in law even though he acts ignorantly or innocently or with a good motive. In any legal question malice depends not upon the evil motive of the actor but upon the illegal character of the act which he committed.

Reference : Law of Torts by Dr. R. K. Bangia.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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