Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi: Bench comprising  of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson) and Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, Judicial Member and Nagin Nanda, Expert Member took suo moto cognizance of Vizag Gas Leak incident.

Tribunal noted that on the basis of media reports that there was leakage of hazardous gas, Styrene from a chemical factory owned by LG Polymers India Private Limited and it resulted in death of 11 persons and hospitalization of more than 100 people of whom at least 25 were reported to be serious.

More than 1000 persons are reported sick. This particular incident damaged the environment and habitat as well.

Thus the said media reports gave rise to substantial question of environment, that need to be gone into by the Tribunal under Sections 14 and 15 of NGT Act, 2010.

Styrene gas is a hazardous chemical as defined under Rule 2(e) read with Entry 583 of Schedule I to the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989.

It is to be observed that, leakage of hazardous gas at such a scale adversely affecting public health and environment, clearly attracts the principle of ‘Strict Liability’ against the enterprise engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous industry.

Tribunal also stated that,

Without prejudice to any other proceedings, this Tribunal has to perform its statutory obligation of providing relief and compensation to the victims of “environmental damage”, as statutorily enacted, and restitution of damaged property and environment.

Thus in view of the above, notice is issued to Andhra Pradesh State PCB, District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and LG Polymers India Private, Limited.

A 5-Member committee is also constituted by the tribunal to seek report on the same issue.

Further, LG Polymers India Private Limited is directed to deposit an initial amount of Rs 50 Crore with District Magistrate, Visakhapatnam.

Matter to be listed on 18-05-2020. [Gas Leak at LG Polymers Chemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, In Re., 2020 SCC OnLine NGT 128, decided on 08-05-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Jitendra Kumar Maheswari, CJ and Lalitha Kanneganti, J., while taking suo moto cognizance  in regard to “Styrene Gas Leak in Visakhapatnam” made certain observations and stated that the need of the hour is to provide adequate medical facilities to the victims.

Petition was filed seeking direction calling records relating to incident of leakage of poisonous gas from LG Polymers factory at Visakhapatnam on the intervening night of 6th May, 2020/7th May, 2020, to direct respondents to take necessary steps for saving the lives of people in and around the said factory along with the medical treatment & necessary facilities to persons evacuated to safer places.

Analysis and Observation of the Bench

Court noted that the said factory produced polymers by use of chemical gas known as “Styrene” which was leaked out. Leakage of the gas and inhalation of the same is dangerous to the life and health of the common citizen.

“Styrene” being dangerous substance is notified under the provisions of Environmental Protection Act, 1956 as per the Rules known as Chemical Accident (Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules 1996, Part-II in List of hazardous toxic substances.

Thus it a matter of enquiry and assessment that the provisions of the said Rules have been observed or not.

Under the said Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989, Styrene has been shown as a hazardous chemical and in accordance to the said rules.

It is a matter of concern that at the time of issuance of permission to run the industry due clearance a per the provisions of the law has been taken, if it is so, then the use of Styrene gas in the industry which is hazardous to the citizens, how in nearby areas the residents have been permitted in mass.

However, the present concern of the Court is to provide necessary and adequate medical facilities to victims. Habitants residing in the nearby area to be immediately evacuated. In addition to Government Hospitals, local hospitals to provide adequate treatment to the victims.

Arrangements of food and nutrition to the citizens to be paramount consideration. Availability of adequate NDRF staff consequential impact on environment as well as citizens is also one of the concerns of the High Court.

In case State Authorities are of the opinion of more NDRF Staff requirement, they may ask the Centre to send the additional staff in Reserve Force to cope-up the present situation that includes evacuation of affected persons, shifting them for medical aids, offering nutritional diet and medical facilities.

State Government shall also ensure to issue direction for opening of the private hospitals in Visakhapatnam area for Medical aid to needy persons.

Bench also stated that, Immediate steps to be taken to bring down the effect of leakage of Styrene Gas by sprinkling of water or other substances that would curtail the damage. Simultaneously, repeated leakage must also be checked.

While doing the above, social distancing norms should be maintained.

State Government shall ensure to appoint a Committee of appropriate Officers and a compliance report must be submitted.

Disaster Management Authority required to be supervised by Chief Secretary of the State to supervise the functioning of the Senior officers.

State Legal Services Authority  to assign appropriate officer from District Legal Services Authority, Visakhapatnam for supervision and Principal District Judge to coordinate with State Officials. District legal Services Authority shall give proper assistance.

Senior Counsel, Y.V. Ravi Prasad has been appointed as Amicus Curiae in the present matter.

Hearing to be postponed on 20-05-2020. [Poisonous gas leakage in Visakhapatnam, In Re, v. State of A.P., Suo Motu WP (PIL) No. 112 of 2020, decided on 07-05-2020]