BY Utkarsh Sachora


Fault is a type of liability in which the plaintiff must prove that the defendant's conduct was either negligent or intentional.

In Fault based liability the intention or state of mind of a person is relevant to ascertain his liability. A person can be held liable only for the harm caused by him due to his breach of duty.  In such cases the court must see whether the wrongful act was done intentionally or not.

So, to determine that an act is intentional or not, a test is conducted i.e. Reasonable Man test:-

To ascertain the intention of defendant we apply the reasonable man test, in which we compare the conduct of the defendant with that of a reasonable man and if his conduct is less than what a reasonable man would have done in that particular situation, he will be held liable.


Some Examples:

  • ·        If man has no reason to believe that there are sewage pipes beneath his land and the same get damaged while excavating the land, he will not be held liable for the damage to the pipes.
  • ·        If a man is driving a car with proper care and suddenly his car malfunctions thereby causing injury to somebody on a public road, the defendant cannot be held liable. He can take the defense of inevitable accident

Liability without Fault:

There are certain situations where knowledge or intention does not matter and the person can be held liable even without having any wrongful intention or negligence on his part. In such a case innocence or proper care of the defendant are no defense. This is called No Fault Liability.

There are two rules associated with No Fault Liability: Strict liability and Absolute Liability.


Strict Liability


This rule states that any person who keeps hazardous substances on his premises or land will be held responsible if such substance escape the premises or land and causes any damage to others.

NOTE: Here the intention and proper care of the defendant does not matter.



1.     Dangerous Things: These are the things which can cause damage is it escape, things like explosives, toxic gases, electricity, etc. Can be termed as dangerous things.

2.     Non- Natural use of land: "Non- Natural" means that there must be some special use which increases the danger to others.

3.     Escape: It basically means that the material should escape from the premises or land of the defendant and should not be within the reach/control of the defendant after its escape.


Leading Case:

Rylands v. Fletcher

Facts: the defendant owned a mill and wanted to improve its water supply. For this purpose, he employed a firm of reputed engineers to construct a reservoir nearby. The problem occurred when the reservoir was so full and one day that the water from it started over-flowing. The water flowed with so much force that it entered the plaintiff’s mine and damaged everything. The engineers, who were independent contractors of the defendant, were clearly at fault. This is because they were negligent in constructing the reservoir. This is exactly what the defendant also said for avoiding his liability.

In this case, the court, however, disagreed and evolved the strict liability rule. According to this rule, when somebody keeps something hazardous on his property for his benefit, it should not escape and affect others. In case it so escapes, the owner of that thing must compensate the victim even if he was not negligent.


Exceptions of This Rule

1.     Plaintiff’s Fault

If the plaintiff is at fault and any damage is caused, the defendant would not be held liable, as the plaintiff himself came in contact with the dangerous thing.



If the plaintiff's horse died after it entered the property of the defendant and ate some poisonous leaves. The defendant will not be held strictly liable for such loss.


2.     ACT OF GOD

Act of god or Vis Major it is same as inevitable accident in which injury or harm could not foreseen and avoided with a difference that here the injury is due to natural  forces or calamities and is unexpected to anticipate. It’s an event over which there is no control of human and the damage is caused by the forces of nature like heavy rainfall, storms, tempest, tides, and volcanic eruptions etc. Black’s law dictionary defined an act of god as “An act occasioned exclusively by violence of nature without any human intervention”. Act of god is a good defense under the law of torts. It is also recognized as a valid defence in the rule of strict liability in the case of Ryland’s v. Fletcher.

There are two essential elements needed to claim the defence of act of god-

  • ·       There must be working of natural forces
  • ·       The occurrence must be extraordinary and not one which could be anticipated and reasonably guarded against.


3.     Plaintiff's Consent-

Volenti non-fit Injuria: It is a legal maxim which means “a willing victim cannot claim”. It states that if a person willingly suffers some harm, he has no remedy against it, he cannot complain about the same. The principle behind this defense is that no one can claim a right that he himself voluntarily abandoned or waived. Consent to suffer harm may be express or implied.


For example-If a spectator in a cricket match is injured by a ball hit by player during match he can’t claim damages for the same because here his consent is implied.


4.     Statutory Authority-

If the legislature or a statue authorized the doing of an act; no action can be claimed for that act. If any person injured from such an act which is authorized he can have no remedy. Thus, the damage resulting from an act is not actionable even though it would otherwise be a tort.

 For example- if a railway line is constructed there may be interference with private land. When the train is running, there may also be some incidental harm due to noise, vibration, smoke, emission of sparks, etc. No action will lie either for interference with the land or for incidental harm, except for the payment of such compensation which the Act itself may have provided, as the construction and the use of the railway is  authorized by a statute.



The Rule of Absolute Liability, in simple words, can be defined as the rule of strict liability minus the exceptions. It is similar to the rule of strict liability except for the fact that there are no defenses to it.

This rule relates to ultra hazardous or inherently dangerous activities which may possibly cause huge and grave damage to the public at large.



In India the rule of absolute liability evolved in the case of MC MEHTA vs. UOI. In this case, there was leakage of poisonous oleum gas from one of the units of Shriram industries in Delhi. As a result of which several person were injured. The court held that irrespective of negligence or intention, the defendant was absolutely liable for the damage caused. The Court held that in this rule of absolute liability, there are no defences available as in strict liability. The court said "Person who carries on such an extremely dangerous activity is responsible for any harm that mat flow from such activity".



This rule of absolute liability was also upheld in the Bhopal gas leak Case. The Union Carbide Corporation, an American enterprise established a pesticide plant in India because of its central location. The plant was supposed to produce Sevin, a pesticide. Union Carbide and the Indian Government had a deal, and under this idea, the Union Carbide had a 50.9% share and the Indian Investors had a 40.1% share. The plant was named as The Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL). UCIL started its production of pesticide in 1979. While this pesticide was produced, a toxic liquid was also produced i.e., Methyl Isocyanate (MIC). Since MIC is a very toxic chemical it required great maintenance. 

Around 1:00 A.M. on 4th December 1984, when the MIC gas started swallowing up the whole of Bhopal people who were sleeping peacefully started feeling the change in the air. They ran for their lives but couldn’t escape their death. Some who were able to save their lives weren’t able to save themselves from the coming disabilities. All this happened because of leakage of the MIC gas from the tank E106. Earlier too complaints were being made about the maintainability of the plant, of how MIC was leaking in small amounts. The previous incidents of leakage had also caused the death of some people and left others severely injured. But, the authorities paid no attention to it. The machines were worn out but no replacement was there.

Finally, after the propagation of the rule of Absolute liability, the Court held UCC liable for the Bhopal tragedy. Though people had their doubts that the Indian Judiciary won’t be able to handle the situation. They thought that the wrongdoers would escape from their liability under the rule of strict liability but it didn’t happen. The Indian Judiciary brought fair justice to the victims. 

On 14th and 15th February 1989, the Supreme Court ordered UCC to pay a sum of $470 million (Rs 750 crores) to the victims. 


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