Strict & Absolute liability: With Special Reference to India

Manoj Kumar

Strict & Absolute liability: With Special Reference to India

Keywords : Strict Liability, Absolute Liability, Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Judiciary, Act Of God


A rule specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by his/her acts and omissions regardless of culpability (including fault in criminal law terms, typically the presence of mens rea). Under strict liability, there is no requirement to prove fault, negligence or intention. Strict liability is prominent in tort law (especially product liability), corporations’ law, and criminal law. For analysis of the pros and cons of strict liability as applied to product liability, the most important strict liability regime, see product liability. Absolute liability is a standard of legal liability found in tort and criminal law of various legal jurisdictions. To be convicted of an ordinary crime, in certain jurisdictions, a person must not only have committed a criminal action, but also have had a deliberate intention or guilty mind (mens rea). In a crime of strict liability (criminal) or absolute liability, a person could be guilty even if there was no intention to commit a crime. The difference between strict and absolute liability is whether the defence of a mistake of fact is available: in a crime of absolute liability, a mistake of fact is not a defence. In other words, absolute liability is strict liability without any exception. The Indian Judiciary tried to make a strong effort following the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, December, 1984 (Union Carbide Company vs. Union of India) to enforce greater amount of protection to the Public. The Doctrine of Absolute Liability was therefore evolved in Oleum Gas Leak Case and can be said to be a strong legal tool against rogue corporations that were negligent towards health risks for the public.


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