NGT Order of Vizag Gas Tragedy: What is Strict Liability Vs Absolute Liability?

The National Green Tribunal recently passed an order regarding the Vizag Gas Tragedy. Under the order, the LG Polymers, where the gas leak occurred was held liable according to the Principle of “Strict Liability” of 19th century English law.

Strict Liability Principle

According to Strict Liability Principle, a company or a party is not liable and does not require to pay compensation in case hazardous substance leaks out from its premises. The leakage is considered accident. The strict liability evolved in 1868 and provides exemptions from assuming liability.

What is the issue?

In the Vizag Gas tragedy, the NGT has used the term “strict liability”. Legal experts claim that the term “absolute liability” should have been used. The NGT has ruled to deposit an initial amount of Rs 50 crore. It has also formed a fact-finding committee.

What is Absolute Liability?

In 1986, the Supreme Court while ruling Oluem Gas leak held that strict liability was inadequate to protect the citizens. Hence, it replaced with absolute liability. According to absolute liability principle, the supreme court held that a company operating a hazardous industry cannot claim any exemption. The company has to mandatorily pay compensation. The fact that the tragedy was caused by its negligence or not does not matter.

The principle of “Absolute Liability” is considered as part of Article 21 (Right to Life).

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