The article ‘All you need to know about False Imprisonment’ by Snehil Sharma is a well-researched study about the concept of false imprisonment, the defences and remedies available for the same.

The article 'All you need to know about False Imprisonment' by Snehil Sharma is a well-researched study about the concept of false imprisonment, the defences and remedies available for the same. There is also a discussion on some of the major landmark cases on this subject matter.What is False Imprisonment? False imprisonment is when someone is purposefully restrained in a defined space by another person without authorization or legal justification. It is not the length of imprisonment...

The article 'All you need to know about False Imprisonment' by Snehil Sharma is a well-researched study about the concept of false imprisonment, the defences and remedies available for the same. There is also a discussion on some of the major landmark cases on this subject matter.

What is False Imprisonment?

False imprisonment is when someone is purposefully restrained in a defined space by another person without authorization or legal justification. It is not the length of imprisonment that counts, but rather the absence of a valid defence.

Both governmental and private detention falls under this. The crime of wrongful confinement, as defined in Section 340 of the IPC, is committed when the constraint is complete and the individual is prevented from leaving particular bounds. Sections 339 through section 348 of the Indian Penal Code penalise wrongful imprisonment. It suffices to show false imprisonment in cases of unlawful police arrest to obtain the writ of Habeas Corpus.

False imprisonment happens when a person is unlawfully restrained without his agreement in a situation where they are either unable to flee the situation or has a good reason to believe they cannot. False imprisonment is defined under tort law as the total restriction of liberty for any length of time, regardless of how brief or brief the period of time is, without a legal justification or adequate defence.

Elements of false imprisonment

The following are the elements present in cases of false imprisonment:

1. Detaining wrongfully

False imprisonment or restriction needs to be deliberate or intentional. It is neither unlawful confinement nor false imprisonment if the door is accidentally closed while someone is on the other side. The term "wilful detention" refers to any type of purposeful constraint, including physically preventing someone from leaving or physically imprisoning them in space.

2. Deliberate intentions to detain

False imprisonment must typically be done on purpose. A person cannot be held accountable for false incarceration unless they intentionally impose confinement or do something knowing that it will almost certainly lead to one. Malice is not a factor in this tort. The intention of the defendant in a claim of false imprisonment must often be established by the judges as a matter of fact from the evidence.

3. Plaintiff's knowledge

It would have been improper to hold someone else in custody. It is not necessary for the plaintiff suing for false imprisonment to have known about his restriction on freedom at the time of his confinement.

4. Liberty being restrained totally

The tort of false imprisonment exists to protect a person's right to unrestricted mobility. Therefore, an individual's freedom should be completely restricted for a set amount of time without a valid reason. If the defendant knowingly limits the plaintiff's freedom and the plaintiff is unable to make use of that freedom, it is seen as false imprisonment.

5. Acting unlawfully

The defendant's actions must be against the law. Unlawful here refers to unconsented or unprivileged. It must be demonstrated that the defendant's decision to confine the plaintiff was unjustified. A plaintiff who consents to be restricted cannot assert a claim of false imprisonment because they have already given their consent. The plaintiff cannot file a claim if another person has the power to restrain the plaintiff, such as the police, because the police have the right to do so.

6. Use of threat or force

False imprisonment also includes the use of force or the threat of using it to restrain another person. In this case, the plaintiff may show the court that the defendant restrained them without their will. However, it is also sufficient to demonstrate that the defendant made violent threats. The plaintiff has been compelled to comply with the defendant as a result of the threat. It is possible to take words and other forms of communication as a threat. However, it can occasionally be challenging to tell whether the plaintiff has willingly consented to be restrained from what a reasonable person would deem a sufficient threat of force.

7. Kept in a restricted area

Even in a city's open streets, one might confine a person to a certain space. The key is that the accused establishes limits to contain the person. However, in order to qualify as false incarceration, there must be complete restraint to the bounded region. Therefore, since there are legitimate methods to exit the bound region, it is not regarded as false imprisonment if the person closes the passageway in one direction only and enables him to travel another way. Similar to the last example, if someone locks someone else in a room but that room has a door they can use to leave it is not a bounded area.

8. Duty omission

Omission, as used in tort law, is the act of not acting or of failing to act. In most cases, such omission does not constitute the tort of false imprisonment. However, in rare circumstances, it might be done through omission.

9. Damage is not mandatory

The injury is not regarded as a necessary component of the prima facie case under tort law to establish false imprisonment. This is so that the plaintiff is not directly harmed by the defendant's action, which is the constraint. Once the necessary components of the case have been proven, the law presumes injury. False confinement claims may be upheld even in the absence of concrete evidence of harm. It doesn't mean that plaintiffs are denied the right to the ability to pursue damages.

Defences of False Imprisonment

Some of the defences available in this scenario are as follows:

1) Partial Restraint

Partial restraint of a person does not constitute false imprisonment. The tort of false imprisonment would not be relevant if the plaintiff had sufficient chance to move freely and flee, indicating that the nature of the confinement was only partial.

2) Judicial Authority

A lawsuit seeking judicial authority's imprisonment for using the powers granted is not maintainable, according to the Judicial Officers Protection Act of 1850. This does not apply, though, if the judicial officer transgresses his boundaries and does so maliciously.

3) Citizen's Arrest

In some nations, including the United States, it is legal for private citizens to make an arrest without a warrant if they see a crime being committed while they are there. Section 43 of the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) also recognises a citizen's arrest.

4) Statutory Authority

It is not false imprisonment if the constraint is carried out by law enforcement personnel, such as the police, who have the legal authority and a warrant. Additionally, if a person is suspected of committing a crime, the police have the right to hold him in custody for a reasonable amount of time while they assess his guilt.

5) Consent to Restraint

Without evidence of fraud, coercion, or wrongdoing, a person who consents to be detained or imprisoned cannot thereafter assert that they were a victim of wrongful incarceration. As a result, the defence of voluntary assent to false detention is frequently used.

6) Valid Arrest

False arrest allegations are invalid if someone was detained as a result of a lawful arrest or a legally mandated detention, or if there is reasonable suspicion that the individual in question committed a felony or engaged in wrongdoing. A person may also be held legally if they unlawfully detain a citizen.


The remedies for false imprisonment are as follows:

i) Self Help

A person who has been unlawfully held may use self-help to defend himself from unlawful arrest by fleeing with reasonable force. The force applied must be appropriate for the circumstances. This is a dangerous strategy because the ability to make an arrest rests not only on the act of committing the crime but also on another explanation and a solid suspicion. Therefore, if an innocent person discovers a plausible justification for their suspicion, an innocent person who resists against their will may be held accountable for the battery.

ii) Habeas Corpus

For immediate release in circumstances of false imprisonment, the prisoner may petition a writ of habeas corpus in both the High Court pursuant to Article 226 and the Supreme Court pursuant to Article 32. Someone else may file a writ petition of habeas corpus on behalf of the prisoner if he is unable to do so. In rare circumstances, the writ of habeas corpus also provides compensation to the victims' families.

iii) Compensatory and Nominal Damages

The general rule in an individual personal tort action is that the plaintiff is entitled to compensation that would be just and equitable in the absence of the circumstances, supporting an award for exemplary damages. A judgement of nominal damages alone may be insufficient and incorrect if the circumstances have shown that there is a right to greater damages, but mere unlawful detention serves as the foundation for the recovery of at least minimal damages. According to current thinking, a person can currently be imprisoned without realising it. In such circumstances, the plaintiff may only be awarded little damages.

iv) Punitive, exemplary and aggravated losses

In cases of wilful imprisonment, extortion, dishonour, libel, and malicious behaviour, the jury may go above and beyond the standard rule of compensation and impose exemplary and punitive penalties as punishment on the defendant. Punitive damages are given when a defendant's actions show a blatant disregard for the rights of others or whether they are committed knowingly or unintentionally. These damages serve as a deterrent. When the state abuses power, exemplary damage may be provided in some cases. When imprisoning someone in a nominal character is insulting or the plaintiff's feelings are injured, additional damage may be given in a reasonable case.

Landmark Cases

Some of the major cases concerning false imprisonment are as follows:

a) Rudal Shah v. State of Bihar, (AIR 1983 SC 1086)

The petitioner in this case, who was still awaiting trial, was wrongfully imprisoned for a number of years despite being cleared by the court. The High Court of Patna ruled that a defendant shall be released as soon as the court finds him not guilty. Any further detention is prohibited. The State was required to make a compensation payment of Rs. 30,000.

b) D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, (1997 (1) SCC 416)

The petitioners raised significant concerns about the police's authority and whether financial compensation should be given in cases where a breach of fundamental rights has been proven, as permitted by Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution. The court determined that incarceration abuse, such as torture and murder in cells, violates the Rule of Law, which requires that the executive branch's authority derives from law and is constrained by it. Transparency of action and accountability were the two safeguards established by the court to prevent the abuse of police power. The court has issued 11 directions outlining the rights of an arrested or detained person.

c) Bhim Singh v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, (AIR 1986 SC 494)

In this instance, the petitioner, a J&K MLA, was scheduled to attend the assembly meeting. By enlisting the assistance of some executives and police, his opponents were able to get him falsely jailed in order to prevent him from attending the Assembly session. The Magistrate also gave the police remand without requiring the accused to appear in the magistrate's court as required by law before reminding them to take him to prison. After the Assembly meeting ended, he was freed. The Supreme Court declared the State responsible for the petitioner's unjust arrest and imprisonment and mandated that the petitioner be compensated with Rs. 50,000.

Difference between False Imprisonment and Malicious Prosecution

False Imprisonment

Malicious Prosecution

Not necessary that malice has to be proved.

Malice proof is required.

Can't make the mistake of fact as a defence

A mistake can be a defence

Reasonable or probable cause's absence is not necessary

Necessary that there must be a lack of reasonable or probable cause

Actual damage need not be proved

Actual damage has to be proved


False imprisonment may result from the defendant's negligence or malice. Still, since the victim is the plaintiff, consideration must be given to the defendant's location, length of confinement, and degree of force employed when determining the amount of compensation to be given. The aforementioned factors will guarantee that the injured party receives just compensation.

False imprisonment is also against Indian Constitutional Article 21, which protects the right to life and the right to personal freedom. Anyone who has been wrongly imprisoned has the right to file a lawsuit against the person responsible for violating their fundamental rights. According to Article 21, we have a basic right to our freedom of movement, and anyone who infringes on that right may be held legally liable.


[1] False Imprisonment: A Judicial Perspective, Available Here

[2] Shubhangi Sharma, 'False imprisonment under the law of Tort', Available Here

[3] What Is False Imprisonment?, Available Here

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Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma

Snehil Sharma is an advocate with an LL.M specializing in Business Law. He is a legal research aficionado and is actively indulged in legal content creation. His forte is researching on contemporary legal issues.

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