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Accused Slept Over Entire Event As If Waiting For Tragedy: Gujarat HC Holds Factory Mngt. Prima Facie Guilty U/S 304 IPC For Industrial Accident, Denies Anticipatory Bail

Mehal Jain
16 Aug 2020 5:29 AM GMT
Accused Slept Over Entire Event As If Waiting For Tragedy: Gujarat HC Holds Factory Mngt. Prima Facie Guilty U/S 304 IPC For Industrial Accident, Denies Anticipatory Bail
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"It shakes the human conscience since the after-shocks could be seen even today, if one visits Bhopal", the Gujarat High Court expressed on Tuesday, making a reference to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of December, 1984, in denying anticipatory bail to the accused managerial staff of a chemical factory in the state in connection with an industrial accident in June resulting in the death of 10 workers...

"It shakes the human conscience since the after-shocks could be seen even today, if one visits Bhopal", the Gujarat High Court expressed on Tuesday, making a reference to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of December, 1984, in denying anticipatory bail to the accused managerial staff of a chemical factory in the state in connection with an industrial accident in June resulting in the death of 10 workers and injuries to 77 others

Mentioning the industrial accident which occurred at the L.G. Polymers chemical plant at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh in May, the Court recounted how "the gas speedily spread in the places surrounding the chemical plant" and how the "footage of people on the streets, collapsing on account of being unable to bear the gas and its pungent smell, is known to all".

The Gujarat High Court denied anticipatory bail to the accused employees, including the Production Incharge, Unit Head, Head of Plant and Liquid Storage, Head of Fire and Safety, holding them prima facie guilty of the offence of criminal negligence leading to culpable homicide.

Stating that the Company is engaged in the business of chemical processing and the applicants, who are "serving on different technical posts requiring specialized knowledge and expertise to deal with such dangerous chemicals", were required to take "immediate corrective measures for neutralizing the effect of the chemical reaction", Justice Gita Gopi exclaimed that instead of taking any corrective measures, the applicants slept over the wrongful act for about 24 hours.

The accident having transpired on account of a wrongful transfer of two different chemicals contained in tankers to the wrong storage chambers , the Court noted that the applicants are well versed with the chemical character of the liquids involved and are well aware of the consequences in the event of a chemical reaction arising out of a mixing of the two chemicals, and if they had taken necessary corrective measures immediately when the wrongful transfer of chemicals came to their knowledge, the tragedy could have been averted and life could have been saved.

Naming it the "most glaring aspect of the case", the bench noted that on 02.06.2020, at around 1200 hrs., two tankers had arrived at the factory premises of the Company. One tanker was containing NA and another was containing DMS. Around 18 tonnes of NA and 25 tonnes of DMS were under the process of unloading and by mistake, the in-let pipes of the tanks were inter- changed and were connected to the wrong storage chambers. Thereafter, the chemicals got transferred to the wrong storage chambers through the hose-pipes.

"This factum came to the notice of the applicants, original accused, at around 1430 hrs. on 02.06.2020. At that very moment, instead of taking necessary corrective measures for neutralizing the chemical reaction, it appears that the applicants did nothing and simply slept over the entire event, as if the applicants were waiting for the tragedy to happen", the bench expressed its shock.

The bench recorded that on 03.06.2020 at around 1200 hrs. on account of a chemical reaction in the storage chamber 'B' containing Nitric Acid, a blast occurred. As a result of the blast, six workers died on the spot and four workers passed away during the course of treatment. In all, 10 persons died and around 77 workers were injured.

The High Court order explains that DMS is an oily liquid used extensively as an alkylating agent and is highly toxic for man, with particularly acute effects on the respiratory tract whereas, NA is a colorless, fuming and highly corrosive liquid. It is also toxic and can cause severe burns. "Thus, it is a well known fact that the two chemicals - DMS and NA, which the applicants were dealing with, are highly toxic substances", said the Single Judge.

The applicants before the court had prayed to release them on anticipatory bail in connection with the impugned FIR for the offences punishable under sections 304, 337, 338, 203, 285, 286, 287,427 and 114 of IPC.

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