‘Negligence’ and the ‘duty to take reasonable care’ together with the ‘rule of strict liability’.


“10. “Negligence” ordinarily means failure to do statutory duty or otherwise giving rise to damage.  Winfield has defined ‘negligence’ as under:

“Negligence” as a tort is the breach of a legal duty to take care which results in damage, undesired by the defendant, to the plaintiff. Thus its ingredients are -

(a) a legal duty on the part of A towards B to exercise care in such conduct of A as falls within the scope of the duty;

(b) breach of that duty;

(c) consequential damage to B."

According to Dias,

Liability in negligence is technically described as arising out of damage caused by the breach of a duty to take care.

These text books thus make it amply clear that the axis around which the law of negligence revolves is duty, duty to take care, duty to take reasonable care. But concept of duty, its reasonableness, the standard of care required cannot be put in strait-jacket. It cannot be rigidly fixed. The right of yesterday is duty of today. The more advanced the society becomes the more sensitive it grows to violation of duties by private or even public functionaries. Law of Torts and particularly the branch of negligence is consistently influenced and transformed by social, economic and political development. The rule of strict liability developed by English Courts in Rylands v. Fletcher (supra) was judicial development of the liability in keeping with growth of society and necessity to safeguard the interest of a common man against hazardous activities carried on by others on their own premises even though innocently. By conservative standard it could not be termed as negligence as damage arose not by violation of duty. Yet the law was expanded to achieve the objective of protecting the common man not by narrowing the horizon of legal injury but by widening it. In Donoghue v. Stevenson (supra) the House of Lords held a duty to take care as a specific tort in itself. Even improper exercise of power by the authorities giving rise to damage has been judicially developed and distinction has been drawn between power coupled with duty. Where there is duty the exercise may not be proper if what is done was not authorised or not done in the bona fide interest of the public.


Jai Laxmi Salt Works (P) Ltd. Vs. State of Gujarat (1994) 4 SCC 1 , referred. 

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