In the event of an inherently dangerous activity being undertaken by a
profit-making enterprise, resulting in damage to any party, the company owners
are fully accountable without the use of any defence or exception.
The undertaking will be on the hook for any and all consequences resulting from
its activities, which means paying compensation to any aggrieved parties.
Industries must be made to supply all the required safety equipment and take
safety measures to ensure workers are protected from mishaps. Such law exists to
safeguard workers' interest and provide a secure workplace.
If a for-profit business is participating in a dangerous task and it results in
injury to individuals, they are responsible for compensating the damages,
regardless of whether they were able to evade the situation or not. This notion
asserts that the enterprise bears the blame for any injuries that occur due to
their hazardous practices.
The enterprise involved in the activity will be responsible for paying damages
not only when the hazardous component leaves the campus, but also if harm is
caused to those working within. This implies that damages aren't restricted to
After two significant gas leaks, the doctrine of absolute liability was
established by the Supreme Court, as a replacement for strict liability.
- Gas tragedy that occurred at the Union Carbide Plant in Bhopal due to
the release of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) thereby causing a catastrophic leak that took
- Sriram Food and Fertilizers Industries experienced a gas leak of Oleum from
one of their units, Delhi.
The doctrine of absolute liability came to be due to fears of industries that
deal with hazardous substances being exempted from liability for damages caused
by the leakage of deadly gases. This fear was sparked by the great damage caused
to thousands of people in the initial incident. The exceptions under strict
liability were the cause of concern for the Supreme Court of India.
Absolute liability principles can be difficult to navigate. Accountability is an
integral aspect of their establishment, irrespective of the level of fault or
intentions. This denotes that even if one is unaware of the potential hazards or
had no ill intentions, they can be held accountable for any injury or damage
arising from their actions. It can pose significant difficulties, particularly
in cases of unforeseen or uncontrollable harm.
The safety and well-being of
society depend on absolute liability principles that discourage reckless behaviour, which is why they are necessary. To promote responsible conduct and
prevent accidents, it is crucial to comprehend and comply with these principles,
despite their inherent difficulties.
Liability is absolute, regardless of precautions taken, when damage is caused by
stored explosives that were accidentally detonated. This is a standard applied
to high-risk activities or things that could jeopardize public safety, which
holds those involved accountable for any resulting harm.
In absolute liability cases, the defendant is held responsible for certain
actions or products automatically, without any defences or excuses allowed. It
doesn't matter whether the defendant took precautions or not; if harm occurs,
they are liable.
Absolute liability is a legal concept that holds a person or entity strictly and
automatically liable for a particular action or harm, regardless of any fault or
intent. In absolute liability cases, the defendant is held responsible simply
because they engaged in a certain activity or owned something inherently
hazardous, and an injury or harm occurred as a result. There is typically no
defence or excuse allowed in cases of absolute liability.
Absolute liability is a more stringent standard than strict liability. In cases
of strict liability, a defendant may have defences, such as proving that they
took all necessary precautions to prevent harm. In contrast, absolute liability
provides no such defences.
Absolute liability is relatively rare in legal systems, and it is typically
applied in limited and specific situations, often related to matters of public
safety or health. The possession of certain risky chemicals or the storage of
explosives may result in absolute responsibility in certain areas. Even if the
individual or entity takes prudent measures, any injury or loss sustained as a
result of these actions will make the party liable.
Activities or situations that pose significant risks to public health and safety
or are inherently hazardous must be conducted with the utmost care and security,
which is precisely what absolute liability aims to ensure.
Principles of Absolute Liability
Absolute Liability is also based on the following three principles:
- Hazardous Activity.
- Escape is not necessary in this case.
There are no exceptions in the case of absolute liability. The quantum of damage
depends on the size of the enterprise.
Absolute liability is a legal rule that makes a person or company automatically
responsible for any harm or damage caused by a certain action or item, no matter
what. It doesn't matter if they were careful or not, and there are no excuses or
defences allowed. If something harmful happens, they are held responsible.
Due to a court case known as Rylands v. Fletcher
in 1868, there came about a new
law called Strict Liability.
The doctrine provides that if hazardous substances are introduced onto someone's
property, that individual is liable for any resulting harm to others from the
substances' release. Even if the defendant acted without negligence or an intent
to cause damage, they still bear responsibility for storing hazardous
substances. Consequently, the first-tier responsibility rests with them.
Certain situations do not consider unavoidable accidents as a valid defence and
this is called strict liability.
In matters pertaining to strict liability, the responsibility of proving
innocence rests solely on the defendant. Liability can be established
independent of negligence, fault, or intention. The individual making a claim
must furnish evidence of a tort, following which the onus of owning up to the
act falls on the defendant.
Under the rule of strict liability, one can be held accountable for any harm
arising from something they made or did, regardless of intention or care taken.
It is a legal concept that disregards negligence or lack thereof, focusing
solely on the causation of harm. Therefore, if actions or products result in
harm, one may be held responsible.
Take the situation where a business creates a toy that harms children, the
company may be considered strictly liable for any harms the toy caused, despite
any lack of intent. This measure is commonly used to maintain the public's
well-being and to ensure those in charge take extra precautions during
production or creation.
Involving prospective harm, consumer safety, and other legal areas, strict
liability is a critical legal concept. It obligates entities, individuals, and
companies to an immense level of responsibility for their actions or products,
irrespective of their intent or fault. Hence, legal accountability can be held
against them if their products or actions result in harm without the requirement
to demonstrate negligence or intention to cause harm.
Product liability cases often implement the principles of strict liability. Any
faulty or harmful products produced or distributed by manufacturers or
distributors can lead to them being held responsible for any damages or injuries
caused. This implies that in the event of a flaw-related injury, there is no
need to prove that the manufacturer acted negligently because the liability is
established simply by the faulty product causing harm.
Activities that are considered ultrahazardous, like handling toxic chemicals or
explosives, bring about a need for strict liability in addition to product
liability. When someone is engaged in these sorts of activities, they are
accountable for any damages or harm that result, regardless of how much caution
was exercised. This way, utmost care is guaranteed in managing these risky
The production of dangerous products and careless behaviour can be deterred by
the principle of strict liability which exists to protect public safety and
consumers. It places the burden of responsibility for ensuring public safety on
those involved in hazardous activities, in order to encourage caution. As a
result, the principle of strict liability acts as a strong deterrent against
harm caused by reckless behaviour or dangerous products.
Forced accountability is the hallmark of strict liability, in contrast to
negligence-based liability which takes into account how much care or caution was
taken. The latter forms of defence are inapplicable in the former. Under strict
liability, both individuals and corporations bear the full responsibility for
any harm they cause. Although the responsibility can prove formidable for those
accused, it fosters a society that values caution and safety.
Principles of Strict Liability
There are three basic principles in Strict Liability:
Non-Natural use of land: In the instance of Ryland v. Fletcher
, the accumulation
of water for personal purposes is a natural practice, but according to the case,
water storage for commercial purpose, for example, powering a mill, is not
When a substance causes harm once it escapes from the
premises of a location, it is referred to as a dangerous substance. The category
encompasses various items, such as toxic gases, electricity, and explosives, to
name a few.
It should escape from the defendant's premises and should be out of
Differences between Absolute Liability and Strict Liability
The differences between Strict Liability and Absolute Liability are as follows:
In cases where the claimant is the one responsible for the harm, there can be no redress for the plaintiff. A prime illustration is the Ponting v. Noakes case.
Without any human interference, if an escape is caused by natural causes, it is considered an Act of God. The Act of God can be put forth as a viable defence by the defendant in certain situations. A well-known example of this is the Nichols v. Marsland case.
No negligence on the defendant's part can lead to them not being liable when mutual benefit occurs. This situation arises when the plaintiff consents to the presence of the source of danger or damage, either express or implied.
If the origin of injury lies with an unknown individual or outsider, known as the Act of Stranger, the defendant is not liable. They hold no power over the defendant and are not related to them in any way, it must be emphasized.
A defence is available if the act is committed by either a corporation or the government, as per the Statutory Act.
A defence is available if there is natural use of land like playing cricket in the cricket ground. Someone who is hit by a cricket ball and gets injured, cannot claim damages.
If the damage is caused by anything which is naturally attached to the land, then the owner is not liable.
- The defendant cannot defend themselves in absolute liability, whereas strict liability allows the defendant to claim various defenses like act of God, third party interventions, plaintiff as the wrongdoer, statutory act, act of mutual benefit/volenti non fit injuria and so on.
- There is mass damage in Absolute Liability, but limited damage in Strict Liability.
- In Absolute Liability, the amount of compensation depends upon the capability of the company, whereas in Strict Liability the amount of compensation is based on the nature and quantum of damage.
- The scope of Absolute Liability is wider, whereas the scope of Strict Liability is narrow.
- The reason behind Absolute Liability is the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case and Sriram Food and Fertilizers Industries Case, Delhi, whereas the reason behind Strict Liability is the Rylands v. Fletcher case of United Kingdom.
- Escape of hazardous substance is not necessary in Absolute Liability, whereas escape of hazardous substance is necessary in Strict Liability.
- Absolute liability is generally related to an enterprise, whereas Strict Liability is related to a person.
- Hazardous activity, escape not necessary, and Enterprise are covered by Absolute Liability principles. Meanwhile, Strict Liability principles encompass Dangerous substance, Escape, and Non-natural use of land.
- In the case of absolute liability, compensation paid is a deterrent in nature, whereas payment of compensation in the case of strict liability is as per the nature and quantum of damages incurred.
- Absolute Liability is a more stringent standard in comparison to Strict Liability.
- Absolute Liability originated in India, whereas Strict Liability came from the United Kingdom.
- In the first case relating to Absolute Liability methyl isocyanate and oleum gases escaped, whereas in the first Strict Liability case water escaped.
The promotion of safety and responsibility is the main purpose of strict
liability and absolute liability in legal systems. When it comes to high-risk
activities like storing explosives, absolute liability is especially crucial to
public safety. It acts as an effective deterrent, making sure individuals and
entities take necessary precautions to avoid accidents since they are
accountable for any harm that follows automatically. In riskier scenarios, where
the stakes are very high, absolute liability reduces the likelihood of legal
disputes and provides speedy compensation for victims, thereby keeping the
public's health and safety in check.
Producing safe and high-quality products is generally encouraged by the
accountability enforced by strict liability, which is vital for fairness and
consumer protection. When it concerns product liability, strict liability is a
crucial aspect that holds manufacturers and sellers accountable for any defects
or hazards in their merchandise. This not only safeguards customers but also
encourages companies to prioritize producing safe and top-notch goods.
someone sustains injuries, obtaining compensation is straightforward without the
need to prove negligence, and the legal proceedings are swift and uncomplicated.
This approach to liability is useful in striking a balance between the needs of
consumers and the responsibilities of businesses, as it enables access to
compensation and encourages the implementation of preventative measures.
Ultimately, this leads to a marketplace that is safer and more equitable.
Written By: Md.Imran Wahab
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected]
, Ph no: 9836576565