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Rule of Absolute Liability

“The rule Ryland and Fletcher evolved the 19th at the time when all these development of science and technology had not taken place…. We have to evolve new principles ad lay down new norms which would adequately deal with the new problems which arise in highly industrialized economy.”

The Supreme Court, Thus, held that it was not bound to follow the 19th century rule of English law, and it could evolve a rule suitable to the social and economic conditions prevailing in the India at the present day.

Rule of Absolute Liability found by Supreme Court of India in the Case of M.C.Mehta V Union of India:- Regarding the measure of liability of “an industry engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous activity” in case of an accident, the court examined whether the rule in Ryland would be applicable in such case. The Court held that Ryland rule with all of its exceptions is not applicable for the industries engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous activities.

The court introduced a new “no-fault” liability standard (“absolute liability or “Stricter than Strict” liability); Where an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity and harm results to anyone on account of an accident in the operation of such hazardous or inherently dangerous activity resulting, for example, in the escape of toxic gas the enterprise is strictly and absolutely liable to compensate all those who are affected by the accident and such liability is not subject to any of exception which operate vis-à-vis the tortious principle of strict liability under the rule in Ryland V Flehcter. Such enterprise owes an absolute and non-delegable duty to the community of ensure that no harm result to anyone. Such of safety, and if any harm results, the enterprise must be absolute liable to compensate for the such harm.

In M.C. Mehta case Supreme Court evolved the new principle of tortuous liability, not even recognized by English Courts. It evolved the rule of ‘absolute liability’ as part of Indian law in preference to the rule of strict liability laid down in Ryland Vs. Fletcher. It expressly declared that the new rule was not subject to any of the exception under the Ryland rule. Because those who had established hazardous industries in and around thickly populated areas could escape the liability for the havoc caused thereby pleading some exception to the Ryland rule. For instance when the escape of substance causing damage is due to the act of stranger, say due to sabotage, there is no liability under the Ryland rule.

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