LEGAL MAXIM: Qui facit per alium facit per se: Our Legal World

Legal News: Qui facit per alium facit per se


As member of the civilized society, we all have some legal rights. And law ensures the enforceability of the same, through the liabilities. According to the law, liabilities can be classified into ‘direct liabilities’ and ‘indirect liabilities’.

Under indirect liabilities person can be held liable for the wrongful acts or omissions of another in the following ways-

1) Liability By Ratification,

2) Liability by Relation and

3) Liability by Abetment. [1]

The maxim, qui facit per alium facit per se, gives us knowledge about the ‘liability by relation’. As a standing towards the other person in a relation implicating responsibility for the acts or omissions done by that person.

What does the maxim mean?

It is a Latin maxim. It literally means, he who acts through others acts for himself. [2] The maxim, qui facit per alium facit per se, states the essential principle of the ‘law of agency’, i.e. A principal who appoints or authorizes an agent to act for him will be bound by the acts of the agent in the performance of his authority.

The doctrine is not new to the Indian politico-legal system. We can found the principle in the ‘Chanakyaniti’, “राजा राष्ट्रकृतं पापं राज्ञः पापं पुरोहित:” . It means that the King is liable for wrongs committed by his subjects and the minister or the priest is liable for the wrongs committed by the King.

The maxim enunciates the principle, on which the law relative to the rights and liabilities of principal and agent depends.

Illustration– If P employs Q to buy goods for him, P is liable in an action for the amount.

It is the liability of the master or the principal for the acts or omissions by his servants or agents.

Why should be a master held liable?

We can find the reasons for this principle of vicarious liability in the observation of Lord Pearce, “The doctrine of vicarious liability has not grown from any very clear, logical or legal principle, but from social convenience and rough justice.” Lord Pearce reasoned his observation further, “The master having (presumably for his own benefit) employed the servant, and being (presuming) better able to make good, any damage which may occasionally result from the arrangement is answerable to the world at large for all the torts committed by servants within the scope of it.” [3]

According to public policy, there ought to be a remedy against someone who can pay the damages. [4] And the master is expected to be in a better position than the servant. [5]

It only applies to everything done by the agent in the ostensible scope of his authority. And it doesn’t apply to the acts of agents of an agent. [6]

Interpretations of the maxim

The doctrine of vicarious liability represented by the maxim ‘qui facit per alium facit per se’ is a rule of evidence. Vicarious or indirect liability is an exception to the general rule, that a person is liable for acts or omissions done by him. [7]

The maxim, according to Salmond, has its origin in the legal presumption that all acts done by one’s master’s express or implied authority, are therefore the acts of his master for which he may be justly held responsible.

Firm of Pratap Chand Nopaji v. Firm of Kotrike Venkata Setty & Sons. Etc. [8]

Facts : The Appellant sued for indemnity of amounts due, on the payment said to be made by the Appellant to the third parties on behalf of the Respondent, who allegedly directed the Appellant to enter into ‘Badla’ transactions. But these transactions are contracts merely for the speculation in fluctuations of the price of goods, without any intention to make the actual delivery. Hence, the purchaser shall not be expected to make a demand for the actual delivery.

It was held that, a person might not do by means of another what he is prohibited from doing himself. The principle should be followed is that- “ that which can not be done directly may not be done indirectly by engaging another outside the prohibited area to do that illegal act within the prohibited area”.

Emperor v. Heptulla Alibhai, [9]

Facts : The appeal was filed by the Government of Bombay against the order of the Bench of Second Class Honorary Magistrates, Surat, which acquitted the accused. The Municipality of Surat had prosecuted the accused according to the notice issued by it, which intimidated the prosecution in case of non-compliance of the notice, before the Bench of Second Class Honorary Magistrates, Surat. The Bench, held that the notice was not valid because it was signed by the Chief Officer instead of the Chairman of the Standing Committee.

The Bombay High Court, in this appeal, held that, the notice issued in pursuance of the resolution made by the Standing Committee and it appeared that notice was to all intents and purposes issued by that body, though its was signed by the Chief Officer. Broomfield, J., held that the notice can be taken to be that of the Standing Committee by applying the maxim qui facit per alium facit per se.

Motilal Channoolal Vaish v. Golden Tobacco Co. [10]

Facts : This was the matter of appeal by the plaintiff, from the decree of the Trial Court. Plaintiff, who was a distributor of goods of the Defendant company, at the end of his work, asked the defendant to take back the remaining stock and demanded the payment of the price back along with the outstanding due. The claims were dismissed by the Trial Court, on the ground that property in goods had passed to the plaintiff by the sale and accordingly he was not entitled to refund the money.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court, while explaining the rule as the agency expressed in the maxim, held that the contract either expressed or implied by which one of the parties confides to the other, the management of some of the business to be transacted in his name or on his account, and by which the other assumes to do business and render an account of it.
And dismissed the appeal upholding the judgment of Trial Courts, that the goods passed to the plaintiff and the price thereof was not liable to be refunded.


Maxims are established principles that jurists use as interpretive tools. Throughout the assessments presented, we can take out the essence of the maxim, that the principal authorizes the agent to represent him, in bringing or aid in bringing the principal into a contractual relationship with the third person. And hence indirectly liable for the acts of an agent.


[1] Ratanlal & Dhirajlal: The Law of Torts
[2] Latin for Lawyers
[3] Imperial Chemical Industries v. Shatwell (1965) AC 656 (685)
[4] Holmes, Common Law
[5] Imperial Chemical Industries v. Shatwell (1965) AC 656
[6] Latin for Lawyers
[7] E M Rao: Industrial Jurisprudence – a Critical Commentary
[8] (1975) 2 SCC 208
[9] (1930) 32 Bom LR 757
[10] AIR 1957 MP 223

Read also: Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium- LEGAL MAXIM with explanation

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