Strict and Absolute Liability
Rules of Strict and Absolute Liability are based on the concept of ‘No fault liability’.At times a person may be held responsible for some wrong though there was no negligence or intention on his part to do such wrong.
This rule was laid down by the House of Lords in Rylands v Fletcher and hence it is also commonly termed as the Rule in Rylands v Fletcher.
In the case of Rylands v Fletcher, the defendant appointed some independent contractors to construct a reservoir in order to provide water to his mill. There were some unused shafts under the site, which the contractors failed to locate. After water was filled in the reservoir, it burst through those shafts and flooded adjoining coalmines belonging to the plaintiff. Even though the defendant was not negligent and had no knowledge of the shafts, he was held liable.
In India, this rule was formulated in the case of M.C. Mehta v Union of India (1987), wherein the Supreme Court termed it as ‘Absolute Liability’ This rule was also followed in the case of Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v Union of India (1996)
Section 92A of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1938 also recognises this concept of ‘liability without fault’.
The ingredients of the Rule of Strict Liability are:
- Some hazardous thing must be brought by the defendant on his land.
- There must be an escape of such thing from that land.
- There must be a non-natural use of the land.
- Exceptions to the Rule of Strict Liability:
- If the escape of the hazardous good was due to plaintiff’s own fault or negligence
- Vis Major or Act of God is a good defence in an action under the Rule of Strict Liability.
- In cases where the wrong done has been by someone who is a stranger and the defendant has no control over him
- Cases where the plaintiff has given his consent to accumulate the hazardous thing in the defendant’s land for the purpose of common benefit
- Any act done under the authority of a statute