The government cannot claim immunity from paying damages in a civil suit on the grounds that it is not responsible for the acts performed by its officers, the Supreme Court has said.
In an order that exposes the government to civil action that can be launched against it for compensation on accounts of wrongs suffered by a person due to laxity by its officers, a bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the State cannot seek protection under its “sovereign power.”
There is no such absolute immunity and that the government can well be held vicariously liable for acts of its officers, it said.
The order came as the court rejected the Centre’s appeal against the Calcutta high court’s 2001 order directing it to pay rs 35 lakh to Sancheti Food Products Ltd, a company which had bought three fishing vessels from the government in an auction in 1987.
However, the vessels could not move out to the high sea and were rendered useless due to bad weather and typhoon because the authority did not register them on time.
The HC ordered the government to pay the amount towards compensation and cost of repairs. The Centre moved the SC claiming sovereign immunity.
Senior advocate Pallav Shishodia, appearing for the company, told the SC that the State or a government has to be put on par with any other juristic legal entity.