Strict Liability and Absolute Liability

  • Strict Liability

When a person is legally responsible for the consequences flowing from an activity even in the absence of fault or criminal intent on the part of the defendant is said to be a Strict liability. Only a person can be held liable and certain exceptions are available in it.


Dangerous Substances: The defendant will be held strictly liable only if a “dangerous” substances escapes from his premises. Things like explosives, toxic gasses, electricity, etc. can be termed as dangerous things.

Escape: Escape of a dangerous thing is necessary and to make the defendant strictly liable is that the material should escape from the premises and shouldn’t be within the reach of the defendant after its escape.

Non-natural Use: To constitute a strict liability, there should be a non-natural use of the land. Non natural use means a special use which increases the danger to others.

Ryland vs Fletcher case

Ryland and Fletcher were neighbours. Ryland had mines on his land whereas the latter had mills on his land. Fletcher constructed a reservoir on his land with the help of constructors and engineers because he required huge amount of energy to run the mill. No attention was paid to mine shafts while constructing the reservoir. When the reservoir was ready and the water was filled, the water reached the mines of Ryland’s through the mine shafts, due to which he suffered heavy losses and sued Fletcher for the same.

In the judgement delivered by the House of Lords, Fletcher was held liable for the entire loss suffered by Ryland’s.

  • Absolute Liability

In absolute liability, only an enterprise can be made liable when it is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity, and harm results to anyone on account of an accident and is absolutely liable to compensate all those who are affected by the accident, and such liability is not subject to any of the exceptions.

M. C. Mehta v. Union of India

A company named Union Carbide set up a plant in Bhopal which manufactured pesticide and such products. One day 40 tons of dangerous gas (methyl isocyanate) leaked from the plant because of which 3000 people died, and various others were injured. It was found that all the safety systems of the plant were non-functional. The Supreme Court decided not to follow the rule of strict liability as this would result in such industries escaping the liability for the damage caused and lost lives.

Strict liability is a concept of the 18th century. With the passage of time and evolving power of science, the rule of absolute liability was for the first time applied in the case of MC Mehta vs Union of India, also known as the Oleum Gas Leak case.

The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991

To ensure that victims of such accidents get quick relief through insurance, the Indian Legislature passed the Public Liability Insurance Act in the year 1991.

This act was introduced with the aim of providing immediate relief to people who are victims of accidents in which handling of hazardous substances is involved. The main focus of the Act is to create a public liability insurance fund which can be used to compensate the victims.


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.

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