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Malicious Prosecution: Initiating a False Criminal Case


Malicious prosecution is a legal concept that involves the filing of a false criminal case against someone without reasonable cause and with the intent to harm them. 

Malicious prosecution refers to the wrongful initiation of legal proceedings, typically criminal, against an individual with malicious intent and without reasonable and probable cause. 

Elements of Malicious Prosecution

To establish a claim of malicious prosecution, the following elements must be present:

Prosecution by the Tort-feasor or Defendant: The legal proceedings must have been initiated by the party accused of committing the tort or wrongdoing. This could involve the person who filed the false criminal case or someone acting on their behalf.

Absence of “Reasonable and Probable” Cause: The prosecution must lack reasonable and probable cause, meaning there is insufficient evidence or justification to support the initiation of the criminal case. The absence of reasonable and probable cause suggests that the case was initiated with malicious intent, rather than based on legitimate concerns or evidence.

Presence of Malice: Malice refers to the intentional desire to harm or cause injury to the plaintiff. In a claim of malicious prosecution, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the tort-feasor or defendant had malicious intent in filing the false criminal case. Malice can be established by showing that the case was filed with a vindictive motive, personal animosity, or a desire to harass or harm the plaintiff.

Plaintiff’s Acquittal: The plaintiff must have been acquitted or found not guilty in the criminal case that was initiated against them. Acquittal indicates that the criminal charges were unfounded or lacked sufficient evidence, to support the claim of malicious prosecution.

Resulting Damage to the Plaintiff: The plaintiff must have suffered some form of damage as a result of the malicious prosecution. This can include financial losses, damage to reputation, emotional distress, or other harms caused by the false criminal case.

Legal Consequences and Remedies

If a claim of malicious prosecution is proven, the plaintiff may be entitled to various remedies, including:

Compensatory Damages: The court may award monetary compensation to the plaintiff for the damages suffered as a result of the malicious prosecution. This can include reimbursement for legal expenses, loss of income, damage to reputation emotional distress.

Punitive Damages: In some cases, the court may award punitive damages to punish the tort-feasor or defendant for their malicious actions and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

Injunctive Relief: The court may issue an injunction to prevent the tort-feasor or defendant from further pursuing or initiating baseless legal proceedings against the plaintiff.


Malicious prosecution involves the unjust initiation of a false criminal case against an individual without reasonable cause and with the intent to harm them. The elements of malicious prosecution include the involvement of the tort-feasor or defendant, the absence of reasonable and probable cause, the presence of malice, and the plaintiff’s acquittal resulting in damage.

Note: Access complete CLAT Legal Reasoning notes here.

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