Respondeat superior


The literal meaning of the maxim Respondeat superior is that “let the principal be held responsible”.


This doctrine is based on the concept that the principal will be liable for the actions of his agent/servant.

It is a well-settled principle that the liability of the principal stands for the act done by his agent/servant. However, there is an exception to this principle, if the act in question is not authorized by the principal, even though the servant/agent acted without authorization the principal will not be liable for such act done by the servant. It is clear that this principle is based on the existence of the master-servant relationship.

In the leading case of D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, the Hon’ble SC held while dealing with the custodial death observed that victims of the wrong done must be compensated. It is the basic object of the law that everybody wronged is compensated. It is the basic object of the law that everybody wronged must get remedy. The Court made it clear that a purposeful remedy can be made available by the law, however, mere declaration of an act of violence in police custody would not be sufficient in a civilized society.

In Amarjit Singh Kalra v. Pramod Gupta, the SC applied the said maxim and regarded it as a guiding force inviting the Courts of law to apply it with the object to preserve and protect the rights of contesting parties.