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False imprisonment is a type of intentional tort, when it is done against your will. False imprisonment means when a person (who does not have the legal right or justification) is intentionally restricts another person from exercising his freedom.

It means total restraint of the liberty, for a short period of time, without any lawful justification. For imprisonment it is not necessary that the person should be put behind the bars, but he should be confined in such an area from where there are no possible ways of his escape except the will of the person who is confining the other person. It is not the degree of imprisonment that matters, but it is the absence of lawful authority to justify the unlawful confinement. It is also known as unlawful imprisonment or unjustifiable imprisonment.

False arrest is another different term from false imprisonment. False arrest means the arrest of any individual by the police or any private person without any legal authority or order of the magistrate.

Being a tort, the primary remedy for false imprisonment is an action for damages which can be due to physical or mental suffering, loss of reputation or even mischievous on behalf of the defendant. In case of false imprisonment, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the false arrest. The plaintiff in false imprisonment, must prove that the defendant has caused the injuries for which the plaintiff seeks damages.

In "BIRD vs. JONES" a public right of way that ran through the paddock created by the defendants for the motive of viewing a boat race. The plaintiff in a try to use the right of way entered the paddock. The defendants prevented the plaintiff from walking through the paddock and instead ordered him to run back and reach the destination through some other route. The plaintiff refused to move and stayed in the paddock for half an hour.

The plaintiff sued the defendants claiming that they had performed false imprisonment. The claim was disapproved, the defendant had done nothing that completely restricted the plaintiff's freedom of movement. The paintiff had been free to leave the place and find any different route for getting to the place he wanted to.


1) Willful detention

False imprisonment must be willful or intentional. Imposition of total restraint is necessary on a person's liberty to continue false imprisonment. By complete restraint, the person detained should not have any means available to escape the same. He must not have the scope to get out of his place of arrest. Closing the door without intention when someone is on the other side is not a false imprisonment.

2) Intention

A person is not liable for false imprisonment except his or her act is done for the purpose of imposing a confinement or with knowledge that such a confinement, to a considerable certainty will result from it. Even negligent acts can fit as false imprisonment. For example, if a person locks someone inside a room without ignorant of the fact that there is someone in the room than he is held liable for false imprisonment. It is ordinarily upon the judges to determine from the evidence, as a question of fact, whether the intention of the defendant in an action for false imprisonment or not.

3) Without authority of law

A false imprisonment action cannot be keep going if a person is properly arrested by lawful authority without a warrant. In direction to rationalize an arrest without a warrant, the arrester should proceed as soon as may be to make the arrest. Hence, a private person can arrest another for a public offense committed or attempted in his/her presence. In case of false imprisonment, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the false arrest. The plaintiff in a false imprisonment action must prove that the defendant has caused the injuries for which the plaintiff seeks damages.




The plaintiff is a practicising Advocate since 1923. In 1948, a FIR was lodged against the Gurbax Singh and it appears that the plaintiff was suspected to be involved in the case. In the end, on 14th April,1950 the plaintiff was discharged by a First Class Magistrate. The defendant was in-charge of that Police Station that arrest the plaintiff from the court.


The plaintiff institutes the suit on the allegations that he had been arrested unlawfully and falsely i.e. without any legal justification and the defendant has committed the tort of false imprisonment.

Defendant, did not care to verify the entries or the statement of the plaintiff before causing his arrest, while the Police officers could, if they so liked, keep a watch on movement of the plaintiff and arrest him if they were satisfied that he was really a proclaimed offender or he had not been discharged was claimed by him. But the officers persisted him immediately arresting the plaintiff and that too from the court premises soon after lunch. At the time of arrest the police officer observed that the plaintiff was a proclaimed offender. This independently would cause loss of reputation of the plaintiff, he was totally restraint by the act of the defendant.


The court has awarded a sum of Rs.12,500 to the plaintiff.


To recuperate damages for false imprisonment, there must be confinement for a considerable degree and the freedom of movement must be absolutely restrained. Punishment for false imprisonment covers fine, imprisonment, or both. Some remedies that available for the individual, are discussed below:

1) Self Help

A person who is unlawfully detained may use self-help to get away as well as reasonable force so as to defend him from unlawful arrest. The force used must be comparable in the state of affairs. This is a dangerous option because the power to arrest is likely to depend upon not only in the commission of offence but different in a reasonable suspicion whereof. Hence an decent person who forcibly hold out against may be liable for battery if the arrester had logical grounds for his intuition.

2) Writ Of Habeas Corpus (you have the body)

This writ is contemplated to be a golden remedy by the English Law. The Supreme Court of India and High Courts issue this writ under Article 32 and 226 respectively. Subject to the rules drafted by the High Courts, the petition for habeas corpus can be made by the person in confinement or by any person on his behalf. The writ of habeas corpus is an effectual means of instant release from unlawful detention, whether in prison or private custody. Where an unlawful detention is persistent, the plaintiff may seek this writ. Aforementioned writ is also used in criminal cases of false imprisonment.

3) Action for Damages

Harm in false imprisonment are those which proceed from the detention. The damages for false arrest are to be measured only to the time of accusation or trial. There is no legal rule for the evaluation of the damages and this is entirely left on the court. The ground for damages involves injury to the person and mental suffering, physical suffering and humiliation, loss of time earnings and interruption of businesses, medical expenses incurred, injury to the reputation, etc.


The tort of false imprisonment is one of the most critical forms of human rights infringement. The Indian socio-legal system is constructed on non-violence, mutual respect and human dignity of the individual. It is essential to note that the act does not need physical force or a locked room to establish the tort. Reasonable understanding on the part of the victim, an unlocked door which has a discern danger on the other side, etc. can all constitute enough elements for the tort.

This article is written by Kanika, of Lingayas Vidyapeeth.

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