Author : Monalisha Singh

As per the law, negligence is any act of ignorance that can cause injury to the person or his property. It is an act marked by the carelessness of any person. There are four fundamental ingredients to prove that the defendant has done the act negligently.

Duty: –

The first element to know about any act as being negligent is to recognize that whether the defendant has taken the lawful duty of reasonable care towards the plaintiff.

Breach of Duty:-

The second most important element is the breach of duty. Whether the person has worked in a reasonable and prudent manner in any circumstance is the second parameter to know whether the act done is negligent in nature or not.


Thirdly , it must be proved by the plaintiff that whether the injury has been caused by the defendant. By this, it wants to convey that whether a particular action or inaction has caused any act which is sufficient to cause negligence.


Lastly, it must be proved that the defendant has done something that has caused the injury to the plaintiff. The court in such cases makes the defendant liable to pay compensation.

Initially when the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was enacted , there was no provision to deal with negligence but in the year 1870 by an amendment act. Section 304 A was inserted in IPC in the same year. Section 304 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that when any person causes the death of any other person by doing or causing to do any negligent or rash act that will not amount to culpable homicide. The defendant in this case will be punished with an imprisonment of either term that extend to two years or with fine or with both. Intention is very crucial in this case to establish the liability of any person. In the case of Ravi Kapur v. State of Rajasthan, the supreme court held that for attracting the provision of Section 304 A, it is pertinent to observe that the death of a person must be caused by negligent and rash acts of the defendant.


The negligent act may be criminal or civil in nature. In the case of civil negligence, the act of the accused must be caused the damage or injury to the plaintiff and in such case the defendant is liable to pay compensation. When any negligent act is done by a doctor that resulted in the death of a person , then medical negligence is caused that can be interpreted as any omission or act by any physician or doctor that caused any injury or the death of any person. The nature of the medical negligence can also be either criminal or civil in nature. It is quintessential on the part of the doctor that reasonable care will be taken, so that it will be realised on his part that if he does not  do things as per the recognized norms then , it may cause negligence and in that case the doctor will be liable criminally.

Some instances:-                                                 

  1. A person went to a party of his friend. When he was returning from the party, he was totally drunk. On that stage he drove the car and hit someone on the path. In this case the person is liable as he drove the car negligently after being drunk, so reasonable duty of care is absent here.
  2. In the hospital, there was a nurse who was instructed by the doctor to feed the patients on time. She forgot to feed one of the critical patients that resulted in death of that patient. In this case the nurse is held liable as she did not do the act with reasonable care that resulted in the death of the patient.
  3. There was a doctor named Rahul. He was a good doctor but one day out of haste, he prescribed an addictive drug to one of the critical patients that resulted in the death of the patient. In this case also, the doctor is criminally liable for being negligent.
  4. A person was driving his car at a speed above 50 miles per hour that caused the death of another person, here as there is a lack of duty of care and prudence. So, the person is held liable in this case for causing the death of the person.

Defences under negligence

Contributory negligence- This doctrine is based on the common law that delineates that if any person caused injury due to his or her own negligence then the person who was injured in this case is not entitled to claim any sort of damages from any other person. This is for the reason that the plaintiff is responsible for his own wrong. In the case of Butterfield v. Forrester , the defendant placed a pole across the public space and he was not legally authorized to do so. The plaintiff was riding his bicycle and got hit by the pole. In this case the court held that the main plaintiff here cannot claim any sort of damages because the light was quite visible and here the plaintiff was at fault and he was negligent.

Act of God- If due to any natural disaster any injury or death is caused to any person then the person who will be injured cannot claim the compensation as this comes under the purview of act of god. In the case of Nicolas v. Marshland , due to high rainfall some of the reservoirs burst and broke the four bridges. In this case the defendant is not liable to pay compensation as waster escaped as a result of act of god.