Author : Gouri Kailash


This article intends to provide an insight of the crime or tort distinction. Earlier before these laws were developed both the law of crimes and law of torts were seen as similar to each other. A person who was wronged could either proceed with the tort law or the criminal law. However with the passage of time these laws have evolved to include features which are distinguishable from each other. Both the laws have incorporated different characteristic features. This article mainly tries to explore the differences between the laws, their nature, the harm caused, the punishment/ or compensation and also gives a brief idea regarding their similarities as well.


Tort can be defined as a civil wrong. It has civil court proceedings and only an individual’s interest is affected i.e. a person’s negligence or an intentional wrong can cause injury or damage to only one person or property and does not affect the society as a whole. The person who causes the harm is the defendant and the person who is injured is the plaintiff. In torts the injured person brings about the charges and if the defendant losses, he has to pay compensation to the plaintiff. The damages or compensation in torts is generally monetary compensation.

The essential elements of torts are:

Wrongful act/ omission

For a tort to be constituted there has to be a wrongful act or an omission to do an act and that act should have caused some injury or damage to another person.

Legal damage

The wrongful act should give rise to a legal or actual damage.

These two elements mainly constitute torts.

Torts can be classified mainly into three types:


Intentional tort is the type of tort where the person does a wrongful act with an intention to do it. He knows that by his wrongful act or by omitting to do an act he will cause injury or damage to the other person.

Intentional torts can be of different types such as:

  1. Defamation
  2. Assault
  3. Battery
  4. Trespass
  5. False imprisonment etc.


When a wrongful act is done by a person without the intention to do it and by accident then it can be termed tort by negligence.

Strict liability

In strict liability the person will be held responsible for his actions even without the plaintiff to prove negligence or the defendant’s fault. Strict liability usually arises when the defendant does some act which is hazardous such as keeping wild animals or using explosives. In such cases he knows that his actions can cause harm or injury to another.


A knocks down B by accident while walking. This is an example of tort.

In torts the burden of proof is on the plaintiff and he has to prove that there was a wrongful act committed by the defendant and this wrongful act has resulted in damage or injury to the plaintiff. When it is proved that the injury has been caused by the defendant to the plaintiff he shall be entitled to the compensation.


 A crime is a wrongful act which interferes with the interest of the society. In crimes it does not affect one individual or property but the society. They are the wrongful acts which government has identified has crime. The person who has committed the crime is also called the defendant. In crime the charges are usually brought about by the government unlike torts where the person who has been injured can bring about the charges.

It is a criminal wrong and criminal proceedings take place. If the defendant losses he shall be liable and will have to serve a punishment as ordered by the court.

The essentials elements of crime are:

A criminal act constitutes both the mental element and the physical element.

Mens rea

Mens rea is the mental element. Before committing a crime he should form intent to do so and mere negligence does not come under crime. Intention of a person is very important in crimes because if the person did not have the intention to commit the crime then he may not be guilty. There are certain situations where the person does not voluntarily cause the accident. For instance if while the driving the car the person suffers a heart attack and causes the death of another, the person who suffered the attack will not be guilty or liable for punishment.

Actus reus

It is the physical element of the crime. It is the actual commission of the crime after the intent to commit the crime has been formed. The person should have been accused of committing a crime and caused injury to the victim. A mere act will not constitute a crime. Similarly the mere intention to commit the crime is not enough. There should be the intention to commit the crime followed by its actual commission.

In some situations after commission of the crime the accused cannot say that he did not have the intention to do it. For instance when a person is drunken driving and causes accident of another he cannot take the defense that he did not have the intention to do it because while drunk driving he is aware that it may cause some accident and therefore he will be liable for it.

Mens rea or actus reus cannot exist independently and therefore there will not be any crime.

Difference between tort and crime

It interferes with the interest of the society.It is a wrongful act against an individual.  
The proceedings are held in criminal courts.The proceedings are held in civil courts.
In crime it involves mens rea and actus reus.In torts it is mostly negligence.
In crime the defendant is punished.In torts the defendant has to pay compensation.
In crime it follows the criminal procedure.In tort it follows the civil procedure.

In torts the defendant has to pay compensation. The compensation is generally monetary so that the plaintiff will be put back in the same position as he was before the damage was caused.

In crimes the defendant is punished so that it creates a fear in the society and they would think twice before committing a crime.

Similarities between Crime and Tort

They are similar to each other in the sense that there is breach of right of the person who has been injured in both torts law and criminal law.


To conclude we can say that both the laws are not entirely different from each other and there is breach of right of every individual and these laws help the citizens to claim damages and also protect themselves from these wrongful acts.