Can the same act constitute a Crime as well as a Tort? – Explained!

But there are also cases, where a wrong can be both crime and tort, and the State prosecutes the wrong-doer and also affords the victim an opportunity to claim damages by providing concurrent remedies.

Examples of such wrongs are assault, false imprisonment, libel, theft, environmental pollution, motor accidents, etc.

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In such cases there is not only the violation of a private right of bodily safety, property or reputation but such violation also constitutes a menace to the society in general.

Thus, in the case of assault not only the injured can recover damages for the right infringed is his right to bodily safety, but the wrong-doer will also be punished by the State for violation of the safety of the society generally. There are several statutes which possess the combined qualities of criminal and tortious liabilities

Kenny observed:

“It will often be difficult to say why certain kinds of harmful conduct are either not treated as unlawful at all or are left in the category of mere civil offences, while other kinds of apparently less harmful conduct have been selected for inclusion in the list of crimes.

Rules of criminal law have often lingered in our legal system long after the changing stream of history has removed the situations which formerly seemed to call so urgently for their creation. Much harm is both crimes and civil wrongs.”

For example, the environmental statutes, such as the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, etc., possess both the characteristics of torts and crime.

Under these statutes, the State is empowered to prosecute the polluter/occupier who pollutes environment and the Courts are empowered to imprison such polluter/occupier. At the same time, the aggrieved person or persons can also sue the polluter for damages/compensation for the torts done by such polluter.