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Essence Of Morality In Tort Law

The topic of the assignment gives rise to a very basic yet necessary question regarding relation between the tort law as well as the morality. To start further its necessary to firstly know what actually the law of tort is And we know that the word tort has arisen from the Latin word (TORTUM) that basically means (twisted) hence we can simply define law of tort as the infringement of a legal right against which the legal remedy is ensured by the law usually in the form of monetary compensation.

Now further talking about morality its derived from the Latin word (MORALITAS) that stands for (proper behavior) and usually morality is defined as the principle concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior or a particular system of values and principles of conduct.

Taking further the topic I would like to quote a sentence said by Arthur Goodhart published in the Cambridge law journal on 30 November 1972 He said Moral judgments are not merely expression of our own preferences or those of our group but applications of law to which all men commit themselves when they are wrong Taking these lines into consideration lets now ponder over some landmark judgments in order to reach a particular conclusion.

Landmark judgments:

Union Carbide Corporation V. Union of India

Facts:
In December 1984, at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, approximately 40 tons of lethal gas methyl isocyanate was leaked into the atmosphere causing immediate death of around 2660 and Lakhs injured. Due to the havoc, this disaster unleashed on the living population.

Legal History:
The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of claims) Act,1985 was immediately enacted, statutorily authorizing the Government of India to exclusively represent the victims. In December 1987, post three years of the disaster, the District court ordered interim relief - a short term help till the full case comes before trial. This went in appeal to the high court, who upheld the decision. The suit was finally heard by the Supreme Court.

Decision:
In the judgment, the Supreme Court held that according to the negligence aspect, there is a Duty of care on the multinational corporation; even in case of fault of its local subsidiary, to ensure care and prudence to know and prevent the emergence of hazards and danger. The Supreme Court hence ordered compensation of $ 470 Million to provide immediate and substantive relief to the victims of disaster.

This settlement was based on the assumption that 3000 people died and 52000 were injured. This amount fell far short of the claimed$3.1 billion by the union of India. Within two years, the court further accepted that there were actually 4000 deaths and substantively began to hear curative petitions. The court held that if the amount was not sufficient to compensate the victims, the union of India was bound to provide the shortfall.[1]

Jai Laxmi Salt Works Ltd. v. State of Gujarat

Facts:
The facts of the case were such that the state of Gujarat constructed a 'bundh' to reclaim land involving a risk of change in the course of water. This change in water flow would inevitably lead to damage to nearby property. The owner of Jai Laxmi Salt Works wrote to the government asking for a change in the location of the weirs so that the factory premises were not flooded. His request was not acceded to, and ultimately during a heavy downpour, the claimant's factory premises were inundated. The government got the damages privately assessed but did not pay them to the claimant.

Legal History:
The claimant had to then approach to the court of law. The trail court dismissed the claims of the ground that the damages were a result of 'Act of God'. The high Court was approached, which decided that since the suit was barred by limitation, the respondent wont be liable. When the case finally reached the apex court it was decided in the favor of the appellant.

Decision:
The court held that construction of bundh was not a non-natural duty and hence cannot absolve the state from the 'Duty of Care' it owes to the citizens, it held that the tortuous liability might either be caused by malfeasance, or caused differently, what is important is the causation of the tort. The defendant was held guilty of breaching its public duty as the construction of bundh was a common law duty, and any injury suffered by common man ought to be compensated, irrespective of who the party is.[2]

Conclusion:
The Supreme Court of India in its judgment delivered in the case (Union Carbide Corporation V. Union of India) and ( Jai Laxmi Salt Works Ltd. V. State of Gujarat) has clearly used the term Duty of care which itself indicates the values that our legal system has inculcated herewith hence we can say that while delivering the decision concerning the Law of Tort morality itself is a very part of the judgment hence reaching to the conclusion that although Law of Tort deals with situations in which the infringement of legal right has taken place yet the judgments delivered has the very essence of morality in it .

End-Notes:
  1. Tanishka Goswami, Five Landmark Decision in Indian Tort Law Explained, Legal Bites Law and Beyond, Feburary 23, 2019, https://www.legalbites.in/landmark-decisions-tort-law/ (Accessed December14, 2020)
  2. Ibid

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