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  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 15, Jan 2021
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Rules of Strict & Absolute Liability:-  Many times it so happens that a person made liable for the act, which has not been done by him, or sometimes he made all possible effort to avoid such harm but still, he made liable. That it there are rules under absolute and strict liability where the person is liable even where he is at no fault. This rule is derived from a case law “Rayland Vs Fletcher”.

Strict Liability:– The principle of strict evolved in the case of case Rayland Vs Fletcher 

The Fact’s of the case:- The defendant got a reservoir constructed on his land for the purpose of supplying water to the mile. The work is done by an independent contractor. When the reservoir was filled, the water flowed to the coal mine near the plaintiff (F), causing damages. The contractor partially neglected that they did not seal the disused shaft. As a result, water was filled into the reservoir there was a blast through the shaft and the resultant was the water flooded from the defendant properly to the plaintiff’s coal mine on adjoining land.


In this case it was held that if any person bring and hazardous substance on his land & if that substance likely to cause damage which is dangerous if escape than such person would be held liable, even if he had taken proper care & hadn’t been negligent in keeping the substance at his place.

The two conditions are necessary in order to apply rule of Rayland Vs Fletcher.

  1. Escape – Escape from the place which the dependant has
  2. Occupied
  3. Over which he has control to place outside of his occupation
  4. Have control

Example – Defendant has some poisonous plant on his properly leaves from the plant enter the property of the plaintiff & eater by his cattle.

The defendant will be liable for the loss.

Non natural use of land – The defendant is liable is he makes a non-natural use of land.

Example – If the defendant lights up a fire in his fireplace & a spark escapes & causes a fire the defendant will not be held liable as it was a natural use of the land.

Exceptions – Exception to the following rule are:-

Plaintiff’s own default – Damage caused by the escape due to the plaintiff own can be considered as a good defence.

Example – Ponting Vs Noakes

The horse of the plaintiff dies because of nibbling/eating the leaves of poisonous trees planted at the defendant’s land. It was held that the horse intruded (deliberately goes to that place to eat) in the defendant properly where he ate leaves & therefore the defendant won’t be held liable for the same.

Act of God – It has always been considered that where an incident occurs due to an unforeseeable event, which the human body can’t have any control over it; then in such circumstances the person can’t be held responsible for liability arising out of it.

Example – Nichols Vs Marshland

The defendant makes an artificial lake over his land by damming (building a dam)up the natural stream. That year there was heavy rain which has never occurred. Due to this like over flooded & has caused damage to the plaintiff properly. It was held that the defendant couldn’t be made liable for the event so happened was unforeseen & therefore the defendant couldn’t held liable.

Consent of plaintiff – If the plaintiff has voluntarily has given consent to install any such substance or object on the defendant’s land then at that situation the defendant won’t be held liable for the loss suffered won’t be held liable for the loss suffered by the plaintiff.

Example – Constair Vs Taylor

In this case, there was a double storied building, where the plaintiff acquired a ground floor & the defendant acquired the first floor. There was a leakage of water from the upper floor for which the plaintiff & defendant both have agreed to store. Due to leakage plaintiff goods were damage. It was held that the defendant couldn’t be made liable for damage as it was the consented act.

  • The act of the 3rd party – If the damage is suffered not by the defendant but by an act of 3rd person who was neither defendant’s servant or was in any relation to the defendant then under those circumstances if any damage is suffered by plaintiff, defendant won’t be held liable.
  • Statutory Authority – Sometimes, public bodies do the same acts like staring water, gas, electricity which are by statute exempted from liability so long as they have taken reasonable care.

This is based on principle of public interest.

Absolute Liability – The rule of absolute liability can be define as rule of strict liability without exceptions.

Strict Liability - Exceptions = Absolute Liability

According to this rule if any person is engaged in an inherently dangerous or hazardous activity, & if any harm is caused to any person due to any harm is caused to any person due to an accident that occurred during carrying out such dangerous & hazardous activity, then the person who is carrying out such activity will be held absolutely liable. Absolute liability is a concept of law that evolved in India. After the case of “M.C. Mehta Vs Union of India”. This is one of the most landmark judgments.

Case – M.C. Mehta Vs Union of India

The facts of the case are that some “ileum gas” leaked in a particular area in Delhi from the industry. Due to the leakage, many people were affected. In the apex court, them people were affected. The apex courts them evolved the rule of absolute liability on the rule of strict or absolute liability & stated that the defendant would be liable for the damage defendant would be liable for the damage caused without considering the exception to the strict liability rules.

Case – Union carbide ltd. Vs Union of India (Bhopal gas tragedy case)

The rule laid down in the case of M.C. Mehta Vs Union India was also followed by the Supreme Court while deciding this case to ensure that victims of such accidents get quick relief through.

Vicarious Liability – Normally, the wrongdoer is liable for his wrongful act, But in some cases a person may be liable for the fort committed by another.

Vicar = The person who perform the act of another

Vicarious Liability = Liability which is incurred for the act of another

A master is vicariously liable for the tort of his servant. This is known as vicarious liability in tort.

The common examples of such liability are as follows:-

Principle & Agent 

Principle = A person who hire a person as an agent for his general work

Agent = is an substitute of an principle who act/works on behalf of him

A person who authorizes someone to act on his behalf while the other who is advised to act accordingly is called the agent. It is always started principle held liable for the act or the agent. The authority that principle acts can be in the form of implication or expressed.

Maxim – Qui facit per alium facit per se

He who act through another is acting himself.

Partners – In the tort committed by a partner in the ordinary course of business of the firm, all the partners are liable for the same extent as the guilty partner (who commit the tort).

Case – Hamlyn Vs Houston & Co.

In the case, one of the two partners bribed the plaintiff clerk for making secret relating to his business. It was held that both the partners were liable for the tort committed by one of them.

Master & Servant – A master is liable for the tort committed by his servant while acting in the course of his employment. The master is liable even though the servant acted against the express, instructions, for the benefit of his matter, so long as the servant acted in the course of employment. The servant is also liable, liability is joint & several

Employer & Independent Contractor – The employer is not merely liable for the act of independent contractor but there are some of its exceptions in which the employer held liable for act of independent contractor.

  • (a) When an employer authorized him to commit a tort
  • (b) In case of strict liability
  • (c) Negligence of independent  Contractor

Vicarious Liability of State :-