Rule of Absolute liability



Indian law system derives a lot of its substance from the English law system but with certain certain consideration of Indian circumstances. Earlier Indian legal system only considered the doctrine of strict liability. As world started progressing and scientific development started happening, different countries adopted the principle of absolute liability . After the landmark judgement of M.C. Mehta v/s UOI court land down the concept of absolute liability in India. As justice Bhagwati said that it is not fair to deal with the cases of 21st century with laws of 19th century . The law fails to deal with big industrial giants who are involved in wrongdoing and beyond the scope of strict liability . It is a loophole in our legal system and because of it we are doing injustice to those who was affected by the wrongdoing.

M.C. Mehta v/s UOI1.

This case originated in the after petroleum gas leak from Shriram Food and Fertilisers Ltd. at Delhi. The gas leak happened just after the Bhopal gas tragedy and created a lot of panic in Delhi, one person died and a few people were hospitalized. This is a landmark case that was decided by the Supreme Court and lays down the principle of absolute liability. This case highlighted the major environmental issues and environmental laws which needed not only implementation but amendments as well.

A PIL was filed by M.C Mehta in 1986 which expanded the scope and ambit of Article 21 and 31 and included the right to healthy and pollution-free environment in it.

Absolute Liability

If an industry or enterprise is engaged in inherently dangerous activity from which it is deriving commercial gain and can cause great damage or suffering then officials of comapany are absolutely liable to the person affected by wrongdoing. Company cannot take up any defences like “Act of God” or pled that all safety was taken care off , ii is not there fault.

1 AIR 1086, 1987 SCR (1) 819

As absolute liability is extension to pre- existing doctrine of strict liability, therefore

essential to establish absoulte liability are almost similar to lines establishing strict liability but with ceratin difference. They are:-

  1. Enterprise or Profit organisation – Strict liability talks about person whereas absolute liability talks about enterprise or profit organisation for commercial objective.
  2. Possession of Dangerous substance or Involved in Hazardous activity – If a enterprise or profit organisation possess any dangerous substance or involved in harzardous activity which is inherently danger and poses a threat to humans. Eg harmful gases, explosives etc
  3. Escape not necessary – Escape is necessary condition to establish strict liability but to establish absolute liability escape is not Workers harmed within the perimeter can also claim damages.

In strict laibilty defended has certain exceptions but in absolute liability defended has no exceptions and the liabilities are absolute. In effect there are absolutely no excuses for harm caused.

Measure of compenstion is co-related to the magnitude and capacity of enterprise. This rule of absolute liability was followed in the Bhopal Gas Leak .

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

In this a company named Union Carbide set up his plant in Bhopal to manufacture pesticides and similar kind of stuffs. On the day of 2nd December 1984 by mistake 40 tons of methyl isocinide gases and dangerous gases were leaked , slowly area near factory became gas chamber because of that 3,000 people died and lot of people became ill. After investigation it was found that all safety systems in this plant was non functional.

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