Vicarious Liability In IPC


I call up my buddy Dhruv and encourage him to join me in robbing a bank shortly after determining that the placid life of the school is not meeting my inner yearning for danger and excitement. Given that I came up with the plan, I inform Dhruv that it is only fair that he handles all preparations for the heist. To my surprise, he accepts and starts making the required preparations, allowing me to rest and read my blog while he takes care of the details. Dhruv steals a car to serve as our escape vehicle, buys a few guns on the underground market, and, while he is getting the weaponry, decides to obtain some weed for his own use. Dhruv goes to a pub a couple of nights before the heist and makes the mistake of telling the bartender about our plan. Before we can rob the bank, the bartender notifies the cops, and they bust us before we can get away.

As a consequence, I’m liable for bank robbery plot and, vicariously, for vehicle theft and firearms, but not for the weed. Dhruv’s cannabis purchase was neither foreseeable nor in furtherance of the conspiracy under Pinkerton v. the U. S[1]. rule, which states that a conspirator is accountable for any crimes done by his co-conspirators that were both reasonably predictable and in the scope of the conspiracy. Because Dhruv’s weed purchase didn’t contribute in any way toward the overall plot, I could not be held responsible for his actions.[2]

Vicarious liability in IPC is one of those obligations that might be placed on one person for another person’s actions or crimes. The concept of vicarious responsibility is also known as joint liability. Vicariously responsible in criminal law means that a person may be held accountable for another’s crime, even though the actus reus was done by another person. Individuals believe that a person who only follows the instructions of another is not innocent and is thus held responsible for the offense as well as the person who gave the instructions. In certain cases, the law looks at the defendant’s connection to the person who really performed the physical act, and it assigns blame for the latter’s actions to the former as a result. Before going any further, it’s important to note that this kind of criminal culpability is very rare. As a civil law theory, vicarious liability in IPC holds an employer responsible for the actions of his or her subordinates.

Vicarious liability requirements

To be vicariously liable, someone must meet certain criteria —


1. The wrongdoer and the person who issued the order should have some kind of connection. Master-Servant, Principal Agent, and Independent Contractors are all examples of possible relationships. A Contract of Service and a Contract for Service are under the category of Independent Contractors.

2. Contract of Service – There are two things that make this contract unique: One person already has a contract with another person, and the service is of a specific kind. Master-servant relationships are an example of this kind of general contract in which the controlling authority is somewhat unrestricted.

3. Contract for Service – This contract is for a specific purpose. Power to direct the actions of another is subject to several restrictions. An example of a relational nexus between an employee and an employer is that the employer can only assign work to the employee and has no influence over how the job is completed.


Under tort law, a person may be held accountable for another’s unlawful conduct or omissions in three ways:

1. If the individual helps the other person conduct an unlawful act or omission.

2. Standing in a position of accountability for the wrongs committed by another person.

3. The wrong was committed throughout the course of the employment.

The connection in ratification might be between any two or more people; it does not have to be a master-servant relationship.

Course of Employment

An act is regarded to be performed in the course of employment if it is either:

1. If the master gives the servant permission to do unlawful conduct, the act is considered to have taken place within the course of employment.

2. A lawful act is performed in an illegal manner by the servant.

It was in the case of Short Vs. Henderson[3]that the requirements for holding a master vicariously liable for the conduct of a servant were first laid down. According to the Court, a master should be able to choose his own servants. Aside from that, the master had complete authority over the actions of his servant, including the ability to fire or suspend him at any time. Because it was not always feasible to meet all of these standards simultaneously in Dharangandhara Chemical Works Vs. The State of Saurashtra[4], the Indian Court, decided that these conditions should be relaxed. But the master’s power would not be lowered, and he would still be held responsible for the actions of his servant.

Why Vicarious Liability Exists

In support of the imposition of vicarious liability in IPC, the following arguments have been made:

1. The ‘deepest pockets’ belong to the master. If the defendant is well-off, it may have had an unintentional impact on the evolution of legal standards.

2. Vicarious liability in IPC promotes accident avoidance by providing an employer with a financial motive to urge his staff to consider the safety of others.

3. It is the employer’s responsibility to cover any losses caused by the activity of his workers since the employer stands to gain from their labor.

4. Lord Chelmsford said, “It has long been established by law that a master is responsible to third parties for any loss or damage caused by the carelessness or incompetence of a servant operating in his master’s service.” When a servant does something for his master, it’s thought of as if it were done by his master’s order, and so it’s the same as if it were done by the master himself.

Why holding master liable

1. Respondeat Superior– A legal theory, most often applied in tort, that holds an employer or principal legally liable for an employee’s or agent’s improper conduct committed while on the job or acting on behalf of the employer. When respondent superior is invoked, a plaintiff often seeks to hold both the employer and the employee responsible. The idea of joint and several liabilities is often used by courts to determine damages.[5]

2. Damages- In order to compensate the aggrieved party and put an end to the blame game between the servant and the master.

3. Preventing servant exploitation- In certain cases, masters exploit their subordinates by ordering them to do a tortuous act, then dismissing them to escape blame. The master is thus held liable for the servant’s actions.

4. Qui facet alium facet perse- A worker’s actions in the course of their duties and obligations make an employer accountable for the repercussions. When an employee or servant is asked to do something for his or her employer or master, the employee or servant is left to decide what to do based on the situation. It is the basis of agency law.

Vicarious Liability in Criminal Law

It’s possible for someone who participated in an incident to be held legally responsible for the actions of another. The getaway driver, for example, is responsible for an armed robbery, even if the driver never got out of the vehicle and the heist was carried out by someone else. When someone is held accountable for a crime that is committed by someone else, they are referred to as the “principal offender,” even if the crime was perpetrated by someone else. It is considered that a person who only performs the actus reus on another’s behalf is not innocent and is therefore held liable for the offense as well. Because of this tie between the defendant and the alleged physical perpetrator, certain laws place blame on the defendant for the conduct of the alleged perpetrator because of his connection to the defendant. Prior to going any further, it is important to point out that this kind of criminal culpability is the exception rather than the norm. When an employer is held responsible for the actions of his or her workers, the term “vicarious liability” comes into play.

On the basis of respondent superior, the IPC provides a few exceptions to the general rule. There are many IPC provisions that apply in this situation, and the master is held accountable under them.

Sec. 149 If a member of an illegal assembly commits an offense, the whole assembly will be guilty of the offense as well.
Sec. 154 Refusal to provide information on a riot or other disturbance by the landowner or occupant. If the occupier or owner of the property, or any person with interest in the land, fails to notify the appropriate public authority about illegal assembly on the land or fails to take required actions to prevent such assembly, they will also be held liable for such acts.
Sec. 155 If a riot or an illegal gathering is conducted in the interest of such a class of people, the owners or occupiers of land or those claiming an interest in land are held vicariously liable for the actions or omissions of their managers or agents.
Sec. 156 Owners and occupiers of property whose land is used for a riot or an unauthorized gathering are held responsible for the actions of their management and their agents.
Sec. 268 & 269 It expressly addresses the issue of public nuisance. In accordance with this clause, a master is held vicariously liable for a public disturbance caused by a servant.
Sec. 499 It expressly addresses the issue of public nuisance. In accordance with this clause, a master is held vicariously liable for a public disturbance caused by a servant.

Employees’ Acts and State Liability

1. As a synonym for “government,” “administration” is used in this situation. Even in developed nations, the question of whether or not an administrator is accountable for the actions of its employees is a complicated one. Those who work for the government can be sued in tort based on the principles of public law and the rules of the Constitution.

2. Vicariously liability for the State’s employees’ actions is founded on three fundamental principles:

  • Respondeat superior(Allow the principal to be accountable)
  • Quifacit per aliumfacit per se(Whoever acts on behalf of another act on his or her own behalf.)
  • Compensation should be shared.

3. Similarly, in India until 1967, the State was immune from liability for the actions of its employees. However, in Superintendent and Remembrance of Legal Affairs, West Bengal v. Corporation of Calcutta[6], the Court decided that the premise that the State is not bound by any laws is no longer the law of the land after the Constitution’s enactment. Laws governing civil and criminal cases now apply to both the people and the State equally. In Saheli v. Commissioner of Police[7], the Court held that sovereign immunity does not apply to evolving legislation and that the Constitutional Regime and the State may also be held accountable.

Corporate Liability for Criminal Acts

In the past, it was thought that corporations could not be held liable for illegal acts. In the current situation, however, that perception has shifted. A corporation is a legal body in its own right and is thus a person under the law. However, they aren’t able to do it on their own. It accomplishes its goals via a network of agents. As a result, anytime illegal conduct is undertaken by a firm, the company’s representatives are held accountable, and as a result, culpability is inherently vicarious for the organization. Rape, murder, perjury, and other crimes against humanity are not crimes committed by corporations. However, it has been acknowledged that a firm may engage in illegal activity.

Licensee and his Liability

1. Vicarious liability in IPC may be applied to a licensee who employs an employee who commits a crime during the course of their employment. Even if the offenses performed were contrary to the licensee’s instructions, he will still be held liable.

2. This was made evident in the case of Emperor v. Magadevappa Hanmantappa[8]. Invoking the Indian Explosive Act of 1884, the accused was allowed to employ explosives. Any explosives manufacturing must be done outside of a residence, according to the act. Dedicated manufacturing facilities should be used for this. The servant grabbed some materials from the structure to use in a manufacturing operation one day. An explosion occurred at that moment. As a result, the Court convicted the master of the same.


Generally speaking, an employer is only accountable for his employee’s actions if he or she participates in them in accordance with the law. It is clear to us that the courts, rather than parliament, are responsible for imposing vicarious responsibility. There are times when statutes explicitly state that one person is responsible for the actions of another. This kind of intent is usually seen in legislation rather than in judicial decisions. When it comes to vicarious responsibility, courts most often argue that the legislation would be rendered meaningless and parliament’s intent would be thwarted without his being held responsible. It may seem strange that the courts are ready to impose accountability for the actions of another on the basis of expediency since the core of the criminal law is that a person should be held accountable solely for his own wrongdoings. To defend the interests of both the victim and the perpetrator, as well as to halt the blame game between the two, it is necessary to hold the master responsible for the subordinate’s actions.

It is possible to infer that, while the notion of vicarious responsibility is a civil concept, it has recently gained widespread acceptance in criminal law as well. However, every case resolved under criminal law for vicarious culpability should be led by fundamental logic and clear evidence in order to characterize the case as just, fair, and equal.


[2]United States v. Studley, 47 F.3d 569

[3](1946) 62 TLR 427







2nd Year BBA. LLB student at Bennett University