Useful Notes on the Concept of an “Act” and Its Classification

Its Classification:

Acts may be classified as internal and ex­ternal. The former are the acts of the mind and the latter are the acts of the body. An external act always involves an internal act, but an internal act does not necessarily involve an external act.

When I do something, the idea is first conceived in my mind; but I may think of doing something and yet I may not do it. Internal and external acts are also known as inward and outwards acts.

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Acts may also be either positive or negative. The former are acts of commission and the latter are acts of omission.

Acts may finally be intentional or unintentional. It is intentional when the result of the act was foreseen and desired by the doer; it is unintentional when it is not the result of any determination of the will towards the actual result or of previous foresight.

Every act is made up of three parts:

(1) its origin in the mental and bodily activity or passivity of the doer,

(2) circumstances, and

(3) its consequences.

A murder takes place. The murderer first planned the act, and the idea struck to him before planning the act.

This is the origin of the act. Then follow the other two parts. The origin of an act is always relevant to criminal liability. Some circumstances and con­sequences may be relevant and others irrelevant.

All Wrongs Are Mischievous Acts:

All wrongs are mischievous in the eye of the law, but the converse is not always true. All harmful acts need not be wrongs, because they do not cause legal damage. Wrongs of this description are called damnum sine injuria, which means that there may be damage or loss inflicted without any act being done which the law deems an injury.

Such acts do not cause legal damage and the injury caused is no injury in the eye of the law. Liability docs not arise in cases (1) when the society at large is bene­fited, though harm is done to the individuals, e.g., competition in trade or business; and (2) when the offence is trivial or so difficult of proof that, though the society does suffer a loss, it is inexpedient or inadvis­able to take cognizance of the wrong.

It does not in the least follow that if anyone has been harmed by his neighbour he can go into a law court for a remedy. He will recover nothing if he alleges a specific tort and fails to prove some essential ingredient in it.

The plaintiff cannot recover damages if he has been injured by the defendant’s fair competition in trade, or by the defen­dant merely using his own land in a manner which the law considers not objectionable. It is only unjustifiable harm that is tortuous.

On the other hand, there are cases which are actionable without proof of actual damage. If a legal right is infringed an action will lie, even though no damage is caused.

Thus, when in Ashby v. White (1704) 2 Ld. Raymond, 938, the plaintiff, being duly qualified, was prevented to vole by the defendant as returning officer and although the candidates for whom he would have voted were duly elected to Parliament, it was held that an action lay against the returning officer for refusing the vote of a duly qualified person, and that the refusal to record the vote was an injury in the eye of law. Similarly, there are wrongs which are actionable without proof of actual damage, e.g., trespass or libel. Such acts are termed injuries sine damnum.