Difference between intention and motive under law of Torts

Difference between Intention and Motive


The intention is the fundamental component for making an individual obligated for the wrongdoing, which is usually diverged from motive. In spite of the fact that we frequently use the two terms reciprocally, these are diverse according to law. While intention implies the aim behind accomplishing something, motive decides the explanation behind committing or doing such an act.

The essential distinction among intention and motive is that goal explicitly shows the psychological condition of the accused, for example what’s happening in his psyche, at the hour of the commission of a wrongdoing, though motive infers the inspiration or motivation, for example what drives an individual to do or cease from accomplishing something.


The difference between intention and motive are as follows:

Firstly, Intention refers to a deliberate activity and a conscious decision to do a demonstration, that is illegal by law whereas, motive implies the ulterior reason, that instigates an individual to do or avoid doing a specific demonstration.

Secondly, Intention is an objective whereas, motive is a driving force.

Thirdly, Intention is substantial to determine criminal liability. On the other hand, motive is insubstantial to determine criminal liability.

Finally, Intention is expressed whereas, motive is implied.


In criminal law, the intention is characterized as the purposeful target that drives an individual to perform a wrongdoing, prohibited by the law, or that may bring about an unlawful result. The utilization of explicit implies that brought about the commission of a wrongdoing communicates the intention of the suspect.

In better terms, intention depicts the will or plan of a person. Thus, when an activity is performed deliberately, it infers the ability or aim of an individual to do as such and not a mishap or mistake, where he or she is totally thought about the results, of the act. That is the reason intention is the essential component to attach the culpability.

Based on Intention, a tort can be divided into two broad categories:

1. Intentional tort

It is a classification of torts that depicts a civil wrong coming about because of a purposeful act on the part of the tortfeasor.

The following case will help to understand the concept better:

Garratt v. Dailey, 1091 (Wash. 1955)

In 1955, a little fellow whose name was Brian pulled a seat from under Ruth Garratt as she went to sit down. Ruth fell and broke her hip on account of Brian’s seat pulling. Ruth filed a claim against the family of Brian professing to have acted deliberately, causing her own physical injury. In spite of the fact that Brian didn’t mean to cause injury, the court found that the act brought about the hip being broken and granted Ruth $11,000 in damages. Brian’s family appealed because kids 5 years old couldn’t be held at risk for a intentional tort. The court decided that children can be held subject and that the expectation component is set up if the individual knew with conviction that the act conveys a danger of injury.

It includes:

  1. Battery: It comprises of contacting someone else threateningly or without wanting to, notwithstanding, marginally.
  2. Assault: Section 351 of the Indian Penal Code characterizes assault as: “Whoever makes a gesture or any preparation, intending or knowing it to be likely that such gesture of preparation will cause any person to apprehended that he who makes that gesture or preparation is about to use criminal force to that person, is said to commit assault.”
  3. False Imprisonment: It comprises of complete restriction for some period, anyway short, upon the freedom of another without adequate legal justification. The limitation might be either physical or by simple demonstration of authority.
  4. Trespass: It is unfair interference with land which is in the possession of the offended party.

2. Unintentional Tort:

An Unintentional Tort is a kind of unintended mishap that prompts injury, property harm, or monetary loss. In case of an unintentional tort, the individual who caused the mishap did so unintentionally and ordinarily in light of the fact that they were not being cautious. The individual who caused the mishap is viewed as careless in light of the fact that they neglected to practice a similar level of care that a sensible individual would have in a similar circumstance.

The following case will help to understand the concept better:

Wilkinson v. Downton (1897) 2 QB 57

The defendant joked that her husband had experienced a mishap and had been admitted to a hospital. She was stunned by this information and fell truly sick. She hence sued the respondent for harms under tort. The defendant guaranteed he never wanted to hurt the offended party, yet just cut a joke. The court dismissed his case, holding him liable. Here, the court saw that simple intention was not a fundamental factor in tort. The defendant knew about the common and possible results of his act which made the offended party endure harm. He was in this manner liable, if he intended to do as such.


A Motive means the individual’s state of mind. It implies the ulterior explanation behind the conduct. When in doubt, the motive isn’t relevant to decide an individual’s liability in the Law of Torts. An unlawful act doesn’t become legal just on the grounds that the motive is acceptable. Also, a wrongful act doesn’t become improper just because of a bad motive.

The motive behind a criminal offense is viewed as insignificant, in determining a person’s liability, since it just explains the denounced reasons, for acting or abstained from acting in a particular way. Nonetheless, it is needed for police investigation and different phases of the case.

In the case of Bradford Corporation v. Pickels, it was held that a lawful act doesn’t become unlawful simply in view of a bad motive. For this situation, the respondent made certain digging on his territory because of which water was moving from his property to the neighboring place where there is the Corporation. The motive behind this was to pressure the offended party to purchase the defendant’s property at an excessive cost. Despite the fact that the harm was caused maliciously simultaneously, the litigant was utilizing his territory. Litigants were not held liable for this situation by the House of Lords. Ruler Macnaughten stated, “In such a case motives are immaterial. It is the act not the motive for the act, that must be regarded. If the act apart from the motive gives rise merely to damage without legal injury, the motive, however reprehensible it may be, will not supply that element”.


At times, Motive gets applicable in deciding obligation under the Law of Torts.

  1. On account of, Balak Glass Emporium V. Joined India Insurance Co. Ltd. in a multi-storeyed structure, water from above disappeared to the lower floor, involved by the offended party. There was proof of ill-will between the offended party and the respondent. The tap was left completely open and the outlet of the tank was likewise shut. The said act was done by the defendant with some wrongful aims or motive and henceforth the offended party was held liable.
  2. In the torts deceit, conspiracy, malicious prosecution and injurious falsehood, one of      the basics to be demonstrated by the offended party is wrong motive with respect to the respondent.
  3. Evil motive or malice may bring about aggravation for damages.


While intention decides if the accused committed the wrongdoing intentionally or unintentionally, motive addresses the inquiry, why the charged carried out the wrongdoing. Basically, motive instigates intention.

In each criminal case, the intention of the litigant is preeminent, in light of the fact that, the blame or blamelessness must be proved with it. Then again, motive doesn’t assume a huge part in deciding the blame or blamelessness.


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