Kasturi Lal Ralia Ram Jain v State of UP Case Summary 1965

Kasturi Lal Ralia Ram Jain v State of UP

Kasturi Lal Ralia Ram Jain v State of UP case deals with the vicarious liability of the State when a tort has been committed by the Police officer who is acting in the duty of the State. Kasturi Lal Case has now been repealed and considered as bad in law by various courts.


  • UP Police constables took into custody Ralia Ram on suspicion of being in possession of stolen property.
  • His property, including gold, silver and seers, was seized and kept in malkhana (police custody) till the disposal of case. Soon, he was released on bail and they returned only the seized silver to him.
  • When police officers refused to return seized gold, he filed the present suit against the respondent claiming that the gold seized from him should either be returned to him, or its value should be ordered to be paid to him along with interest by damages and future interest.
  • They contended they were not liable to return either the gold or pay the money value of gold with interest. The respondent accused Mohammad Amir, who was then the head constable and malkhana’s in-charge, that he flew away to Pakistan with the gold and some other cash.
  • Case has been registered under S. 409 of Indian Penal Code and S. 29 of the Police Act against Mohammad Amir, but nothing effective could be done despite the best efforts made by the police department.
  • The defendant pleaded State could not be held guilty for negligence. The trial Court found in favor of the plaintiff and ordered a decree to pay money value of gold.
  • On appeal by the defendants, HC withheld decision of trial Court and held the defendant not guilty of negligently losing the plaintiff’s gold. The plaintiff (appellant herein) challenged the correctness of this decree in this Court.

Contention & Issues:

Whether the respondent was guilty of negligence in the matter of taking care of gold seized from Ralia Ram and kept in Police malkhana?

Ratio & Decision:

1. Justice Gajendragadkar: SC held the State was not liable as police officers did the act in the exercise of sovereign powers. By holding the power to arrest a person, to search for him, and to seize his property are powers conferred on the police officers by statute as sovereign powers.

2. Sovereign power is a legal doctrine by which the State is immune from civil suit or form criminal prosecution. It adapted this archaic concept of sovereign power from British jurisprudence that “the king can do no wrong”.

The law commission of India in its first report presented the abolition of this archaic doctrine, but the bill was never passed. After this case of Kasturilal, the courts, by liberal interpretation, narrowed the immunity of the State and more powers of State were held non-sovereign.

In many of the cases after Kasturilal, this doctrine has been narrowed but no one overruled this case, though there were disapprovals on principles of Kasturilal in several cases. This case is pure injustice by barring damages to the victim merely because of the status of the wrongdoer.

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