A tort is a private wrong, whereas a crime is a public wrong. A tort is an infringement or privation of the civil rights which belong to individuals, considered merely as individuals, while crime is a public wrong. Crime is a breach and violation of the public rights and duties due to the whole community, in its social aggregate capacity.
An offence, which is punishable as a crime, may also be treated as a tort if it is shown that it has caused special injury to an individual, and gives rise to a civil action, if the aggrieved individual proves that the injury suffered by him is distinct from that suffered by the general public.
The real distinction between a tort and a crime lies in the method in which the remedy for the wrong is pursued. Tort differs from crime both in principle and procedure.
Every tortious act does not amount to crime, nor does every crime include a tort. There are certain points of distinction between a tort and a crime, which are tabulated below:
1. A tort is a species of a civil wrong. It gives rise to civil proceedings
2. In a tort, the plaintiff is the injured party.
3. A tort is a violation of the private rights of an individual.
4. The wrong-doer is liable to compensation to the injured party.
5. The purpose of awarding compensation to the injured party is to make good the loss suffered by him.
6. The nature of punishment is lighter, that too in the shape of awarding damages.
7. In tort, the intention is not important factor.
8. Mens rea has no place in tort.
9. The principles of “Injuria sine damnum”, “Damnum sine injuria”, “Vicarious Liability”, “Respondeat Superior”, “Absolute Liability”, “Precautionary Principle”, “Polluter Pays’ Principle”, etc. are recognised in the Law of Torts.
10. Burden of proof lies on the complainant/ injured.
11. Natural Principles of Justice, good conscience, equity, etc. are followed in fixing the wrong-doer’s liability.
12. Most of the Law of the Torts is judge-made- law. It is not codified.
13. It is the latest subject.
14. The offences under the torts do not involve any element of moral turpitude. The wrongdoers of torts are punished by way of damages for the better social welfare and efficiency.
1. Crimes are those which result in punishment of the criminals.
2. In a crime, the victim is an individual. The criminal proceedings against the wrong-doer are instituted by the State.
3. A crime is a breach of the public rights and duties which affect the whole community.
4. The wrong-doer is generally punished. Sometimes the fine is imposed. But that fine amount is credited into the State account. The amount collected by way of fine or penalty is not paid to the victim.
5. The purpose of the criminal law is to protect the society by preventing and deterring the offenders from committing further offences.
6. The nature of punishment is heavy and serious in the shape of imprisonment.
7. In crime, intention plays important factor.
8. Generally an act shall not be punished as a crime, unless there is mens rea actually present in the wrong-door.
9. In majority criminal cases, these principles are not adopted in the criminal law.
10. Burden of proof lies on the State. The injured becomes a witness only.
11. Strict rules of procedure and principles are followed in fixing the liability of the criminal.
12. All the crimes are defined and the punishments are prescribed. Criminal Law is codified.
13. It was the oldest law.
14. The offences defined under the criminal law are notorious for moral unscrupulousness. They are treated as morally depredated, aggravated heinous and dangerous to the individuals and also to the society.