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Mridul Bansal & Paramjeet Singh Bhamra from Gitarattan International Business School.
It is was theOleum Gas Leak Case, which made the judiciary
realize the urge of strict and absolute implementation of liability into the
Indian Law. Till now, what was given consideration was the doctrine prevailing
in Common Law but it gained modification in India by the doctrine of absolute
liability. The principles derived from the case ofRylands V. Fletcherled to the principle of absolute liability that obstructed the defendants
in the case of M.C Mehta V. Union Of India
from denying to pay compensation. Therefore, in the Indian Context absolute
liability has become both tortious and criminal liability and states that the
engagement of any enterprise in any activity which is hazardous or inherently
dangerous and which results in any injury to any person shall account that
enterprise liable for carrying on of such activity.
The doctrine of absolute liability is considered as an
instrument to halt mass demolition or prevention of harm to life of masses.
With the need to move parallelly with time and growth, the courts began to
bring the doctrine into play even where the life of masses were not concerned
but only bring about wellbeing of an individual. In the case of Klaus
Mittelbachert V. East India Hotels Limited,
a German co-pilot suffered serious injuries after he dived into the swimming
pool of a five star restaurant. With the conduct of investigation, it was found
that the design of the swimming pool was defective and there was insufficient
water. After 13 years of the incident, the co-pilot died due to paralyses. The
Court stated that the five star hotels are expensive and they have to take a
high degree of care towards their customers and therefore, the hotel was held
liable to pay a compensation of Rs. 50,00,000.
This severe industrial disaster occurred between 2-3
December, 1984 in the city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The leakage of Methyl
Isocyanate Gas from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) plant which
manufactured pesticides was the reason behind the happening of such tragedy.
The control and prevention equipment and the safety system were not working and
some of the working system were in a poor condition which lead to the death of
4,000 people and 1.5 lakh people being injured.
The out of court settlement that took place between
the Government of India and the UCIL for full and final settlement of $740
million was largely criticized and the Supreme Court upheld the settlement
order except the clause of suspending criminal proceedings.
Thus, the doctrine of absolute liability operates even
if the duty of care was taken by the company since it makes the owner
absolutely liable for the tragedy whatever may be the reason for the
occurrence. Thus, it creates a deterrence in the minds of the owners to take
full proof measures and to predict the worst case scenario.
On 13th June, 1997, a fire broke out at the
Uphaar Cinema located in South Delhi, during the screening of the movie Border
due to fault in wire connections and lead to the death of 59 people and injured
100.The two transformers installed
caught fire and they were repeatedly demanding repairs which resulted in
sparking and then a massive fire.
It was held that even if there was no negligence,
there was statutory violation by not maintaining the safety standards and such
a violation is sufficient to empower the court to make the respondents liable.
The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 came into
force as a measure to protect the workers in a factory handling hazardous
substances from delayed relief of compensation. It also binds the owners to
take insurance for the workers handling such substances so that in case of an
unforeseen accident the workers are secure.
This act’s main object was to give or provide necessary
damages or compensation to people other than the people who work there or under
their employment, and who got affected by accident or series of accidents which
occur while working with chemical or dangerous hazardous substances and for all
the matters connected. This act was brought to ensure compensation to the
people effected and that the companies won’t be able to escape the liability
through stating their inability to pay due to any reason such as bankruptcy or
lack of sufficient assets or funds. This act ensures that the ongoing operation
is secured and in case of any accident, the damages can be paid without any
M.C. Mehta vs Union of India and Ors. 1987 SCR
(1) 819, AIR 1987 965
Rylands v Fletcher  UKHL 1(1868) LR 3 HL 330