Concept of absolute liability

After the Bhopal gas tragedy incident, many people lost their lives and others are suffering from fatal diseases through the generations and due to these circumstances there came an urgent need to develop a rule under strict liability so that no exception should come to the defendant to escape from the liability.


In Rylands v. Fletcher, the court held that if a person makes unnatural use of land by collecting something that when escaped likely causes mischief when escaped, then the owner of the land is liable if the thing collected escapes and causes damage. This rule was widened in M.C Mehta v. Union of India, Supreme court held that if an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous and dangerous activity and if any harm would be caused to anyone due to an accident in the operation, the enterprise will be held liable strictly and absolutely to compensate all those who are affected by the accident. The essential elements of absolute liability are-


Dangerous thing– there must be dangerous things collected on the land which are likely to cause damage to another person or the property of another person such as a large amount of water, gas, electricity, sewage, etc. comes under consideration.
In this case, the dangerous thing that is stored in large amounts is Oleum Gas.

Escape- The dangerous thing which is stored on the land escaped from the area which is under control of a person collecting it. In Read v. Lyons and Co., the plaintiff was working as an employee in the defendant’s company which manufactures shells,s and one day the piece was exploded which has to be manufactory on the premises of the land when she was on duty. The court held that it doesn’t come under strict liability because the incident happens on the premises of land and for the principle of strict liability to be applicable, the thing should be escaped from the land and so the negligence on the part of the defendant could not be proved.

Non-natural use of land- to differentiate between natural and non-natural use of land, a person has to keep the surrounding in his mind. As the growing of poisonous trees is natural but if a person grows trees in a populated area then it is unnatural to use land. Similarly, in Ryland v. Fletcher, water collected on land for domestic purposes is not unnatural but storing large quantities in the reservoir is.

Mischief- to prove the liability of the defendant, the plaintiff had to prove that the escaped dangerous thing had caused injury to the plaintiff in any form. In Charing Cross Electric Supply Co. v. Hydraulic Power Co. The defendant was assigned to supply water for industrial work but he fails to keep their mains charged with minimum pressure which results in the bursting of pipelines in different places results in causes damage to the plaintiff which is proven in the court than the defendant is found guilty.

After the incident of oleum Gas Leak, The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 was introduced with the main purpose of providing immediate relief to people who are victims of accidents in which hazardous substance is involved. Hazardous substance in this act is defined as a substance which by reason of its chemical or any property likely to cause damage to human beings, plants, the environment, and other living creatures.


In most places, the rule of absolute liability is seen as an exception, and an individual is held liable only when he is at fault whereas in certain cases the individual is held liable without being at fault. In Ryland v. Fletcher and MC Mehta v. Union of India “no-fault liability principal” happens as the individual is made liable even though they do not have any malice in their acts.

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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