The Tribunal during hearing of the case today, has constituted a a five-member Committee to inspect the site in Andhra Pradesh and submit a report within ten days.
Along with it, the Tribunal bench comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson; Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, Judicial Member and Dr. Nagin Nanda, Expert Member have fined the owner of the plant LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd., ₹50 crore and directed to deposit the sum with the District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam.
The Tribunal in its order, stated:
“Having regard to the prima facie material regarding the extent of damage to life, public health and environment, we direct LG Polymers India Pvt., Limited to forthwith deposit an initial amount of Rs. 50 Crore, with the District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam, which will abide by further orders of this Tribunal,”
The Tribunal has issued the above order in view of the ‘Strict Liability’ clause under the Environmental Laws.
“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. Such an entity is liable to restore the damage caused under the Environment Law, apart from other statutory liability,”
The Tribunal has constituted a 5-Member Committee comprising of Justice B. Seshasayana Reddy, Former Judge, A.P. High Court; Prof. Ch V Rama Chandra Murthy, Former Vice Chancellor, Andhra University, Vizag; Professor Pulipati King, Head of Chemical Engineering Department, Andhra University, Vizag; Member Secretary, CPCB; Director, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology; and Head, NEERI, Vizag and instructed them to take a visit to the site as early as possible and submit a first hand report before next date of the case.
The Committe has been instructed to collect information on things such as the sequence of events, causes of failure and persons and authorities responsible therefore, extent of damage to life to both human and non-human, public health and environment – including, water, soil, air; steps to be taken for compensation of victims and restitution of the damaged property and environment, and the cost involved, remedial measures to prevent recurrence, any other incidental or allied issues found relevant.
The Committee has been granted the liberty to take assistance of such experts, individuals and institutions as may be considered necessary.
Since there is a nationwide lockdown imposed in the country, the Committee members who aren’t local has been permitted to exempt from pyhsical visit and would rather grant their assistance via online. The Chairman of CPCB has been asked to arrange for the same for Committee members using available technology.
Moreover, the Member Secretary of CPCB has been appointed as the Nodal Agency for coordination with the Committee and the state authorities i.e. DM, Vishakhapatnam, and Regional Office, Andhra Pradesh State PCB have been directed to provide logistic support to the Committee to aid their fact-finding
It was of the opinion that the incident of gas leak is a result of failure to comply with the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 that require on-site and off-site Emergency Plans to ensure damage prevention.
Apart from recognizing the ‘Strict Liability’ of the company, the Tribunal has ordered that the Statutory Authorities responsible for authorizing and regulating such activities may also be held accountable for their lapses.
Notices have been issued to various stakeholders to provide them an opportunity of hearing before proceeding to provide statutory relief and compensation to the victims of environmental damage, and restitution of damaged property and environment begin.
The Tribunal noted:
“With a view to deal with the issue, it is necessary to ascertain the facts relating to the extent of damage, extent of failure and consider remedial measures. The affected parties have to be given the opportunity of being heard,”
They have been asked to file their response, if any, before May 18 which is the next hearing date of the case.
Not only NGT, the National Human Rights Commission had also taken suo moto cognizance of the deaths and human sufferings caused by the tragedy and issued notices to the Central Governance Andhra Pradesh Government.