NGT | Holding Oil India Limited liable to pay compensation for Assam oil well blow-out, Tribunal calls for strict action against such failure at all levels

National Green Tribunal (NGT): Bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice S. P. Wangdi (Judicial Member) and Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal (Expert Member), reaffirmed the decision passed by the tribunal in the case of LG Polymer Chemical Plant, In Re,  2020 SCC OnLine NGT 129, which observed that safety of citizens and the environment are of great concern calling for strict action against failure at all levels and for strengthening the regulatory mechanism, holding Oil India Limited liable under the principle of absolute liability to pay compensation of Rs 25 crores for the oil well blow-out in Assam.

Background

The issue pertains to a claim for compensation to the victims and to the environment on account of damage in an incident of oil well blow-out on 27-05-2020 at Baghjan in the Tinsukia District of Assam. The oil well released propane, methane, propylene which caused great damage to flora and fauna present around and also spread into the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park which is a home to a huge population of wildlife in it. It also affected the people living around the area as 1610 families were displaced due to the gas leak.

Issue

Whether the direction of the Tribunal in its earlier order for compensation of Rs 25 Crores to District Magistrate by Oil India Limited is required or not?

Decision

  • The Tribunal committee ordered for immediate deposit of Rs 25 crore to the District Magistrate to meet the liability for compensation to the victims and the cost of restoration of the environment.
  • On the issue of the other funds set up by Oil India Limited for the rehabilitation of the victims and restitution of the environment, the committee decided that “it is not a substitute for the information sought to be gathered by this Tribunal for exercise of its jurisdiction which is sui generis”. It decided that liability of Oil India Limited to pay compensation is absolute, relying on the judgement of MC Mehta v. UOI, (1987) 1 SCC 395. Tribunal primarily relied on the decision of    LG Polymer Chemical Plant, In Re, 2020 SCC OnLine NGT 129 which was similar to the current incident and has been discussed above.
  • The committee in its order, while acknowledging the relief funds made by Oil laid emphasis on the fact that the company is still bound to pay compensation to the State. [Bonani Kakkar v. Oil India Limited, I.A. No. 30 of 2020, decided on 02-07-2020]

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