What Is The Doctrine Of Sovereign Immunity?


Law of Tort is a concept of civil wrong that comes attached with liability, where the person or authority causing any harm or loss is subjected to pay compensation to make up for the negligence or invasion of privacy or financial loss, or many other things. There are immunities which, however, undermine the liability, thereby making the principal matter of the Law of Tort subject to limitations. It is noticeable in this regard that liability, along with immunity has various kinds of rules and regulations that need to be discussed in order to understand the very necessary details of the Law of Tort.


India does not exactly mention the nuances of the Law of Tort, unlike Britain. Hence, the concept of liability can be explained on the basis of the theories that led to the rise of it.

Liability, therefore, is based mainly on the principal concept of the Law of Tort, according to which any person who caused damages must pay compensation. It is to be noted alongside this, that, in cases of involvement of a third party, then the third party is also liable.



On the basis of actions that cause harm and loss, liability can be observed to have been distinguished in the following types:

  1. Vicarious liability
  2. Strict liability
  3. Negligence
  4. Nuisance
  5. Joint liability and many more types.


Vicarious liability functions when, a superior is liable to compensate for any civil wrong committed by his subordinate, owing to which both of them will face compensation charges. There are requirements to claim the vicarious liability.

  1. Liability by the special relationship
  2. Liability by ratification
  3. Liability by abetment

Liability by ratification: If a person does not authorize another person to act on his behalf but, later on, approves of the act and thereby authorizes it after its commission, it has the same effect as if the act was done on his command and this known as the liability by ratification.


Liability by special relationship: Special relationships like that of master-servant, principal-agent, employer-employee: herein, in these relationships and relationships of similar hierarchy, the higher authority is held equally responsible in case of civil wrong by the subordinate. A hypothetical situation is cited henceforth for the explanation of the liability.

Supposedly, if it is held that in a particular medical situation, a wrong due to negligence by some medical staff, say, a nurse, takes place -herein, the doctor presiding above the designated staff member will be held equally guilty, and in certain cases, other staff members can also be held responsible with respect to their position in the case and the guilty.

In business, the partners are also liable for the act of vicarious liability in Section 26 of the Partnership Act, 1932, wherein any wrongful act or omission of any partner acting in the course of business of the firm, or with the authority of his co-partners, loss or injury is caused to any person not being a partner in the firm. The firm is liable, therefore, to the same extent as the partner so acting or omitting to act. Therein, it is rightfully assertible, that any subordinate or staff are liable equally in case of any wrongful act.


Liability by abetment: If any person commits a crime under the instigation of another person, then both the convict as well as the instigator are to be held equally guilty, and both are liable to face an equal amount of punishment for the wrongful act.

Liability, as the principal characteristic of the Law of Tort, comes with its own pros and cons, speaking of which brings up the point of its limitation acted through immunity. So, where, liability strengthens the basis of the Law of Tort, immunity undercuts the very principles of liability.


1. In English law, the immunity of the crown from civil liability is based upon the maxim, “the king can do no wrong”. An action for a personal wrong will, therefore, not lie against the Crown. There is no rule that no proceedings can be brought in tort against the crown in a private capacity.


2. In India, now there is no royal authority. It has been provided in the constitution of India, that the President of India and Governors shall not be answerable to any court. Judicial independence is one most important factors any government authority to be answerable to the people of the country. For instance, any wrongful act committed by an authority belonging to a certain political organization can put the other members or even higher authorities of the organization under liability to punishment, under rightfully justified circumstances.


After a scrutinized study of the Law of Tort, there is one point that stands up: that, liability and immunity are as interrelated as two sides of the same coin. While immunity grows from liability, so does the latter is balanced by the former. Both of these, in turn, have an intrinsic effect upon the Law of Tort, which they are a part of. It can henceforth, be said, immunity is as important, with all its rules, as is the very own principles of the Law of Tort. A discussion of immunity, henceforth remains important with respect to the country, the situation and the rules and regulations.

This Article is Authored by Dishant Arya, 5th Year B.A.LL.B Student at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies.


Also Read – Note On Remoteness Of Damages

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