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Kasturilal Ralia Ram Jain v/s. Uttar Pradesh Case Summary: Sovereign Power Of State

This judgment is heavily criticized and is one of the most debated landmark judgments of all times.
  • Name of the Case: Kasturi Lal Ralia Ram Jain v. The State Of Uttar Pradesh
  • Citation: 1965 AIR 1039, 1965 SCR (1) 375
  • Appellant: Kasturilal Ralia Ram Jain
  • Respondent: The State of Uttar Pradesh
  • Bench/Judges involved:
    1. Gajendragadkar, P.B. (Cj
    2. Wanchoo, K.N.;
    3. Hidayatullah, M.;
    4. Dayal,
    5. Raghubar;
    6. Mudholkar, J.R.
  • Year of the Case: 1964
  • Date Of Judgment: 29th September 1964

In tortious liability of the state and the actions done by their servants State makes it liable for the acts of omission and commission, intentional or unintentional and brings it before the Court of Law in a claim for non liquidated damages for such acts in tortious liability.

In the case presented, some police officers had seized silver and gold from a trader while traveling. Later when they were negligent to keep the items An appeal was filed against the state.

Facts Of The Case:
  1. Kasturi Lal Ralia Ram Jain was a partner of the firm who is the appellant and the one who dealt with selling jewellery in Amritsar. Kasturi Lal Ralia Ram Jain arrived at Meerut with his aim to sell gold and silver there.
  2. He was taken into custody by three police constables on suspicion of being in possession of Stolen property.
  3. Properties seized from him included:
    Gold, weighing 103 tolas 6 mashas and 1 ratti, and silver weighing 2 maunds and 6 1/2 seers, and was kept in the police malkhana.
  4. few days later on 21 September 1947, Kasturi Lal was released on bail and after some time, only the silver that was seized by the police officers and kept in the maalkhana was returned to him, not the gold.
  5. Ralia ram Then made repeated requests and demands for the return of the gold that was seized from him but he could not recover the gold from the police officers.
  6. Being unsuccessful in getting back the gold he then filed the suit against the respondent, on the Decree to the board that the items that had been seized from him should be either:
    1. returned to him or the alternative
    2. its value should be ordered to be paid to him with interest.
  7. The Claim thus made by him consisted of Rs.11,075-10-0 As the price of gold and Rs.335 as interest by the way of damages as well as future interest.
  8. The respondent resisted the claim and contended that they were not liable to return either to gold or pay the value of the gold with interest.
  9. Respondent claimed that Mohammad Aamir who was the head constable of the malkhana which he was in charge of went to Pakistan with gold and some other cash that he had stolen on 17 October 1947.
  10. Police did try and act against Mohammed Amir but nothing effective could be done despite the best efforts put in by the police department. hence the respondent claimed that they could not be held guilty

  1. Were the police officers in question guilty of negligence in the case of taking proper care of the gold which had been taken from Ralia ram?
  2. Was the respondent liable to compensate the applicant for the loss due to the negligence of public servants employed by the state?
  3. Can the tort of negligence committed by a public servant in discharge of his statutory function be categorized under sovereign powers and held liable?

The Decision Of The Court:
The supreme court decided on the matter and decided that the act was done by the police officers in the exercise of their sovereign powers. The court held that it was negligent on the part of the respondents' employee but the employee himself was discharging his sovereign powers. The power to arrest a person, to search him, and seize his property are powers conferred on the police officers by statute as sovereign powers. hence The state was held to be not liable.

Sovereign immunity originated in court decisions. The doctrine of sovereign immunity initially had been explained on the grounds that "the king could do no wrong" but this is not valid and acceptable in today's day and age and what all that happened to Kasturi Lal ralia Ram was not fair. Though there were disapproval of the principles of Kasturi Lal in a number of cases this case is pure injustice and unfair by refusing damages to victims solely because of the status of the wrongdoer.

Written By: Gauri Saxena

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