Wrongful imprisonment occurs when a person (who does not have the legal right or justification) is intentionally restricts another person from exercising his freedom. When someone intentionally restricts another person’s freedom, he can be found liable for false imprisonment in civil and criminal courts. The factors which constitute false imprisonment are:
- Probable cause of imprisonment.
- Plaintiff’s knowledge for imprisonment.
- Intent of defendant during imprisonment and confinement period matters.
This is applicable to both private as well as government detention. Under criminal law, whether the restraint is total or partial, the same is actionable. When the restraint is total and the person is prevented from going out of certain circumscribed limits, the offence is that of ‘wrongful confinement’ as defined in Section 340 of IPC. Under this, the Indian Penal Code punishes wrongful imprisonment. Section 339 to 348. When it comes to the police, proving false imprisonment is sufficient to obtain the writ of Habeas Corpus. It is not mandatory that the person should be put behind bars, but he should be confined in an area from which there are no possible ways of escape except the person’s will who has confined him. Depending on the laws of a particular jurisdiction, wrongful imprisonment can also be a crime, as well as intentional tort.
Elements of false imprisonment
All states have laws regarding false imprisonment designed for protecting people from being confined against their will. The laws of each state vary, but in general, certain constituents of false imprisonment must be present to prove a legal claim. To prove a false imprisonment claim in a civil suit, the following elements must be present:
- Wilful detention
False imprisonment or restraint must be intentional or wilful. Accidentally closing the door when someone is on the other side is not a wrongful confinement or false imprisonment. Wilful detention applies to intentional restraint in any form, including physically restraining a person from exiting, physically locking him in a building, room, or from other places, and restraining him from leaving through force or intimidation.
- The intention factor
Generally, the tort of false imprisonment must be intentional. A person is not liable for false imprisonment unless his or her act is done for the purpose of imposing a confinement or with knowledge that such confinement, to a substantial certainty will result from it. for this tort, Malice is irrelevant . It is ordinarily upon the judges to determine from the evidence, as a question of fact, the intention of the defendant in an action for false imprisonment.
- Knowledge of the plaintiff
The detention of another person would have been wrong. There is no requirement that the plaintiff claiming another person for false imprisonment was aware of his restraint on his freedom at the time of his confinement.
In the case of Herring v Boyle, it has been held that such knowledge is essential , in that case a schoolmaster wrongfully refused to permit a schoolboy to go with his mother unless the mother paid an amount alleged to be due to him , the conversation between the mother and schoolmaster was made in the absence of the boy and he was not cognizant of the restraint. It was held that the refusal to the mother in the boy’s absence, and without his being cognizant of the restraint, could not amount to false imprisonment.
Bhim Singh vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir. In this case the petitioner, MLA of J&K was to participate in the Assembly meeting. His opponents in order to prevent him from attending the Assembly session got him arrested wrongfully with the help of some executives and police. The Magistrate also granted remand to police without compliance of the mandatory requirement of production of the accused in the Magistrate’s Court before reminding him to police custody. He was released after the Assembly session got over. The Supreme Court held the State liable for wrongful arrest and detention of the petitioner and ordered a compensation of Rs. 50,000 to be paid to the petitioner.
Rudal Shah vs. State of Bihar. In this case, the petitioner, an under-trial was wrongfully confined in jail for several years despite his acquittal by the Court. The High Court of Patna held that as soon as a person under trial is found not guilty by the court, he should be set free. Any detention after it shall be unlawful. The State had to pay a sum of Rs. 30,000 as compensation.