Strict and Absolute Liability

There are some activities which are very dangerous in nature. Even a little negligence has severe and irreversible consequences. In such cases it becomes important that the law levy punishments even if it is no one’s fault. 

This is known is the Rule of Strict Liability, it comes into play especially in commercial and other activities which have the potential to result in horrific damages. 

The strict liability is an important concept under the law of torts. The basis of this principle basically lies in the inherent harm that some activities can inflict. For example, leaking of poisonous gasses, as it happened in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, will attract this rule. 

The underlying principle of compensation in torts generally depends on the extent of precautions a person takes. Hence, if he takes abundant precautions to prevent some harm, the law may exempt him from paying damages. This principle, however, does not apply to strict liability. 

Under the strict liability rule, the law makes people pay compensation for damages even if they are not at fault. In other words, people have to pay compensation to victims even if they took all the necessary precautions. In fact, permissions allowing such activities often include this principle as a pre-condition. 

The Rule in Rylands V. Fletcher, 

In this case the House of Lords have laid down the rule that a person who in course of non-natural use of his land is or is deemed to be, responsible for the accumulation on it of anything likely to do harm if it escapes, is liable for the interference with the use of the land of another which results from the escape from his land. 

In Haley V. Jening  

The Court has applied the rule of strict liability. In this case it has been held that in such cases the owner of the land, is liable because he keeps such thing on his land which are likely to cause harm to others. Every person has absolute right to use his land but he cannot make unnatural use of his land which might cause harm to others. 

Defences under Strict Liability, 

  1. Natural use of a thing 
  1. Act of God 
  1. Common Benefit 
  1. Consent of Plaintiff 
  1. Mistake of Plaintiff 
  1. Statutory Authority 

Rule in M.C. Mehta V. Union of India- Rule of Absolute Liability 

The new rule of Strict Liability is been laid down by the Supreme Court of India in this case. 

The Court held that the Rule laid down in Ryland vs Fletcher was in the 19th century and it did not meet the needs of the modern industrial society. 

 An enterprise which was engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous industry which posed a potential threat to the health and safety of the persons working in the factory and residing in the surrounding areas owed an absolute non-delegable duty to the community to ensure that if any harm resulted to anyone,  the enterprise is strictly and absolutely liable to compensate all those who are affected by the accident and such liability is not subject to any exceptions. 

References, 

https://www.ecolex.org/details/court-decision/mc-mehta-anr-v-union-of-india-ors-462d3446-32dc-47c4-bfbb-15fec6b27b67/

Aishwarya Says:

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