False Imprisonment

When a person checks someone’s free movement that is movement on one’s own will then it is called as false imprisonment. It can be in open ground, house or in a street. Complete deprivation of liberty for any time however short, without lawful cause, is known as false imprisonment. Total restraint or total confinement of a man’s liberty is false imprisonment.


  • There must be an absolute restraint on the liberty of the plaintiff
  • It must be without any lawful justification


Total restraint

Wrongful imprisonment is committed when total restraint has been imposed upon someone’s liberty. When a person forces someone to be in a position against his will, For example, X is on the roof-top and Y maliciously takes away the ladder and now X has no other way to come down and remains there against his will, it will tantamount to total restraint.


Knowledge of Plaintiff

A person can be detained without his knowledge. But it is possible to hold captors liable for imprisonment if it is not known to the imprisoned man that he is a captive or being detained. In Meering v. Graham White Aviation Co. Ltd, a person (plaintiff) was suspected of having stolen a keg of varnish from the shop of employers i.e., defendants. The employer asked the plaintiff to go with their policemen to the company’s office. After reaching there, he was asked to wait in the waiting room while the two policemen remained in the neighborhood. The defendants were held liable for false imprisonment. The defendant’s plea was that the plaintiff was free to go anywhere and he was knowing it but did not go anywhere. However, the court was not convinced and observed that the plaintiff from the moment came under the influence of the police was no longer a freeman.



Reasonable condition

It won’t be a case of false imprisonment by preventing a man from leaving the premises since he has not fulfilled reasonable condition subject to which he entered. In Herd v. Weardale Steel, Coal and Coke Co, a miner descended a coal mine at 9.30 a.m. with a view of working therein. He was allowed to get out of the mine at 4.30 p.m.

On reaching there, he wrongfully refused to do certain work and at 11 a.m. he requested to get out of the mine. But the employer refused to do so saying that lift can’t be used before 1.30 p.m. although the lift was available. The Court said that it was not the case of false imprisonment.


Judicial Authority

In our country, the Judicial Officers are protected from liability for doing a wrongful thing in the discharge of their duty and hence a Judicial Officer cannot be sued for false imprisonment.

Section 1 of the Judicial Officer’s Protection Act, 1850 gives a free hand to legal authorities to discharge their judicial duties within their jurisdiction, and at the same time, the protection is given to them even if their act done or ordered found to be erroneous, irregular or even sometimes illegal. Moreover, a judicial officer while discharging his duties he stretches beyond his jurisdiction area and if he does so in good faith believing the area within his jurisdiction would not be held liable. Jurisdiction does not mean the authority to do or order the act impugned but generally the authority of the judicial officer to act in the matter. But, if a judicial officer acts maliciously or knowingly acted outside his jurisdiction, then he may be held liable.


Arrest by Police

If a policeman making is arresting a person in execution of a judicial order notwithstanding any defect of jurisdiction by judge or magistrate, the policeman will not be held liable. But this protection from liability does not extend to any irregularity in the execution of the warrant and there is no defence if the person other than the person named in the warrant is arrested, however innocent the person making the arrest may be. If, the police officer doesn’t have the arrest warrant the defence of lawful authority can’t be taken. If, some policeman is arresting a person on reasonable suspicion of any crime without any warrant then he must inform the person of the true grounds on which he is making an arrest and if he doesn’t give the true reason then he is liable for false imprisonment.




Self help

The person who is unlawfully detained needs to wait until he is released before seeking redress. Self-help is available for him to escape. The person can use reasonable force to protect himself instead of waiting for legal action for his release.


Action for damages

Whenever a person has been wrongfully detained, he can always bring an action to claim damages. Reimbursement may be claimed not only for injury to the liberty but also for disgrace and humiliation which may be caused thereby.


Habeas Corpus

Under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution of India, a person can move to the Supreme Court or High Court respectively for the issue of Habeas Corpus if he has been wrongfully detained. It is also possible that the person who has been wrongfully detained may have been set free by the time the writ of Habeas Corpus is disposed of. In such circumstances, the Court may also grant compensation as ancillary relief. In A.D.M. Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, it was observed that the Habeas Corpus is not available during a proclamation of emergency.




  • (1920) 122 LT 44
  • 1915 AC 67
  • (Anwar Hussain v. Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee, AIR 1965 SC 1651: 1965 Cr LJ 686).
  • AIR 1976 SC 1207
  • R.K Bangia

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