rule of absolute liability

In M. C. Mehta v. Union of India, the Supreme Court was dealing with allegations arising from the oleum gas leakage from one of Shriram Foods and Fertilizers Industries’ units in Delhi on the 4th and 6th of December, 1985. One advocate practising in the Tis Hazari Court was said to have died as a result of the leak, and several others were said to have been injured.

The Supreme Court made a bold decision, ruling that it was not bound by the 19th century rule of English law, and that it could develop a rule that was appropriate to the current social and economic conditions in India. In place of the Strict Liability rule established in Rylands v. Fletcher, it developed the rule of ‘Absolute Liability’ as part of Indian law. It made it absolutely clear that the new rule was not subject to any of the exceptions set forth in the Rylands case.

As a result, the Supreme Court developed a new law establishing strict responsibility for the damage caused by hazardous substances, which had not previously existed.

“ Where an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity and harm results to anyone on account of an accident in the operation of such hazardous or inherently dangerous activity resulting. For example, in the escape of toxic gas, 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 of the exceptions which operate the tortuous principle of strict liability under the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher”.

Few cases inside the purview of the rule Absolute Liability

Bhopal Gas Tragedy / Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India ,MANU 58(1992).

The rule of absolute liability was upheld in the tragic Bhopal Gas Tragedy, which occurred on the night of December 2nd and 3rd, 1984. The Union Carbide Company’s poisonous methyl-iso-cyanide(MIC) gas leak in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, resulted in a major disaster, with over three thousand people killed. Property, flora, and fauna were all severely damaged. The consequences were so severe that children in those areas are now born with deformities. The Union Carbide Company in Bhopal was a subsidiary of the Union Carbide Company in the United States, so a lawsuit was filed in the American New York District Court. Due to a lack of jurisdiction, the case was dismissed. The Bhopal Gas Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 was passed by the Indian government, and it was used to sue the corporation for damages on behalf of the victims. The corporation was found liable and required to pay compensation to the plaintiffs by the court, which applied the rule of “Absolute Liability.”

Indian Council for Enviro-legal Action vs. Union of India ,3 SCC 212(1996).

A petition filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution expressed the petitioners’ displeasure with the existence of factories that were polluting the environment and endangering the lives of villagers living near the industries. Since they were unable to live in a safe environment, it infringed on their right to life and liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court acted quickly, ordering the Central Government and the Pollution Control Board to take immediate action against the aforementioned industries. The court maintained the doctrine of absolute liability in this case, arguing that the contaminated atmosphere must be returned to a pollution-free environment conducive to safe living by the use of anti-pollution technological equipment. Even if their properties must be attached for this reason, the industries must pay for the expenses incurred in this operation. The companies have been declared fully responsible for punitive damages for environmental restoration.


The rule of Absolute liability which was evolved from the rule of strict liability in M.C Mehta v. Union of India case. Absolute liability can be easily defined as Strict Liability minus the exceptions available in the rule of Rylands v. Fletcher case. Strict Liability’s prerequisites and essentials simply do not cover any of the bases for protecting citizens who are injured by unsafe products. As a result, in order to accommodate the modern age of industries, which brought with it even more toxic substances and unsafe practises, a new standard was needed to assign liability to those industries. The main target of this rule of Strict liability are Industries and operations that use or produce hazardous or potentially harmful substances in their facilities. These industries now consume the country’s capital while still posing a threat to people. This Absolute Liability law makes it mandatory for industries to fully and unreservedly accept responsibility for their losses, putting citizens’ and society’s health and well-being first. The main objective of the rule of Absolute Liability is to protect the right to life and personal liberty of its citizen mentioned in Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Article 21 : Protection of life and Personal Liberty

“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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