Case BriefsCOVID 19High Courts

Andhra Pradesh High Court: A Division Bench of Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari, CJ and Lalitha Kanneganti, J., addressed certain PILs that were filed in regard to the LG Polymers poisonous gas leakage incident.

Petition was filed seeking direction or any appropriate writ calling for records relating to leakage of poisonous gas from LG Polymers factory at Visakhapatnam and further directing respondents to save lives of people in around the factory by providing necessary medical facilities.

Another petition was filed wherein direction was sought as respondents were not providing financial and medical facilities to people affected by incident also directing LG Polymers company management to give compensation fo Rs 2 crores as compensation to the deceased families and 50 lakhs to every injured person, 50,000 to deceased cattle as well as 5,00,000 to damaged standing crop of farmers.

Adding to the above, company be seized and directed to shift far off from Visakhapatnam.

Bench held that as asked by the Court in its 7th May Order with regard to the said incident, action report was to be filed by 20th May, 2020. State and centre filed their affidavits along with material to show the efforts made by them.

Court observed that the action reports were silent on the following issues:

  • LG Polymers has been operating without a valid Environmental Clearance from the MoEFCC.
  • Inhibitor concentration in the storage tank was not checked. Refrigeration system was not working properly.
  • Radius of the vulnerable zone extended upto 6.3km from the source.
  • There are several hospitals, education institutions, places of worship, railway stations and airport within the vulnerable zone.
  • Bystander population should have been informed of the risk they were at and trained in evacuation procedures in the vent of an accident as per Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989. But, this has not been done.
  • Siren/Alarm system did not function.

Advocate General and Counsel on behalf of Assistant Solicitor General prayed for time to apprise the Court on the above-stated queries. Further reply was also asked for the following:

  • What is the net worth of LG Polymers as per the provisions of the Companies Act, not as per the book value.
  • After registration of crime, an appointment of investigation/inspection team and also when the Magisterial enquiry was required, why, without appointment of the said panel or permission of Court, Styrene Monomer has been permitted to be transported to South Korea and who is the person responsible for the same?

Hence, Court passed the following interim directions:

  • Premises to be completely seized and no one to be allowed including the Directors of the Company.
  • Committee, if any, appointed wants to inspect premises, they are at liberty but shall put a not on Register maintained at the gate of the Company regarding the said inspection and a note while returning regarding what act done in premises.
  • None of the assets movable or immovable, fixture, machinery and contents shall be allowed to be shifted without the leave of the Court.
  • As stated before, Directors have surrendered their passport and they are in India, however, Court directs that their passports shall not be released without the leave of the Court and they be not allowed to go outside India without leave.
  • It be also apprised whether, during the lockdown period, any permissions were obtained to restart the operations, if not, action taken report be filed.
  • Grievance regarding appointment of various committees by NGT, Centre and State, Centre and State are at liberty to apprise as to which Committee shall fulfil the purpose.

Respondents to file compliance report by 26th May, 2020. Matters to be listed on 28th may, 2020. [Taken UP, Poisonous gas leakage in Visakhapatnam v. State of A.P.; WP(PIL) No. 112 of 2020, decided on 22-05-2020]

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]