What is Res Ipsa Loquitur

What is Res Ipsa Loquitur

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself.” Imposing a legal interpretation, this doctrine comes forth validating the admissibility of circumstantial evidence and/or secondary evidence when there’s a lack of evidence against the defendant.

In Byrne vs Boadle, this maxim was used for the first time where the complainant was injured by a barrel that dropped from the window of the defendant.

Bare Act PDFs

In the abovementioned case, Pollock, C. B., said “here are many incidents from which no presumption of negligence can arise, but this is not true in every case. It is the duty of persons who keep barrels in a warehouse to take care that they do not roll out and I think that such a case will, beyond all doubt, afford prima facie proof of negligence.”

This doctrine intends to help direct the court proceedings to a conclusion, especially if it is established through the implication of this doctrine’s rule that the injury caused to the claimant would not have occurred or taken place if the defendant wasn’t negligible.

This also gives enough cause and evidence to hold the defendant liable for his negligent actions.

Essentials of Res Ipsa Loquitur Maxim

  1. The injury caused to the plaintiff shall be a result of an act of negligence.
  2. There is a lack of evidence, or the evidence presented before the court is insufficient to establish the possibilities of the fault of the plaintiff or third party.
  3. The defendant owes a duty of care towards the plaintiff, which he has breached.
  4. There is a significant degree of injury caused to the plaintiff.

Applicability of Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur

The maxim of res ipsa loquitur came into force to benefit the plaintiff as he can use circumstantial evidence to establish negligence.

Consequently, it shifts the burden of proof on the defendant, logic being, where there is an event of unexplained cause, usually, the one that does not occur without the defendant’s negligence in controlling the action which has caused the injury to the claimant or destroyed his goods.

Bare Act PDFs

In this scenario, the court shall presume negligence on the part of the defendant in such a case unless it includes an appropriate explanation compatible with his taking reasonable care.

In Achutrao Haribhau Khodwa and Others vs State of Maharashtra and Others, it was considered that the maxim should not be applied in the case of general incidences of neglect and shall only be reflected when there is a significant degree of injury caused.

Section 106 of the Indian Evidence Act

Section 106 of the Act provides that when any fact is especially within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him.


  1. When a person does an act with some intention other than which the character and circumstances of the act suggest, the burden of proving that intention is upon him.
  2. A is charged with travelling on a railway without a ticket. The burden of proving that he had a ticket is on him, and if B wishes the court to believe that A was elsewhere, then he must prove it.

It is pertinent (relevant or applicable to a particular matter) to note that this section applies only to parties to the suit. It implies that the responsibility of proving negligence rests on the person who alleges it.

In Ishwari vs Karnataka 1994 SC, the Hon’ble court held that “where a man and women were found hiding under the bed in a bedroom of the person who was found dead from injuries, the proof lies upon them to explain their presence and also the circumstances in which the deceased met his death.

It is important to note that this doctrine does not apply to instances where it is susceptible for anyone else other than the defendant to be in knowledge of any such cause of action as being claimed. It is, in fact, an opportunity for defence when the facts especially lie solely in the knowledge or insight of the defendant.

For example: Under section 9 of the Foreigners Act, the burden of proof lies on the person who claims to be or not to be a foreigner.

Dinky Punjabi
WritingLaw » Law Notes » What is the Principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur – Indian Evidence Act Law Study Material
If you are a regular reader, please consider buying the Law PDFs and MCQ Tests. You will love them. You may also support us with any amount you like. Thank You.