The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Wednesday permitted seven South Korean employees of LG Chem Ltd., parent company of LG Polymers India Ltd - which was the source of leak of styrene gas near Vishakhapatnam - to leave India.
The permission was granted by the same bench which is hearing the suo moto case registered against LG Polymers, while stating that the South Korean employees do not have any liability vis-à-vis the untoward incident.
A bench comprising Chief Justice JK Maheshwari and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti said,
"Petitioners came to India as a part of the Expert Team being employees of the parent company, primarily they may not have any liability of the incident, more so, when they are not the employees of the LGPI and are the employees of the parent Company — LGC and came to India from South Korea to assist or to find out the cause for the incident. In such a situation, we deem it appropriate to direct the authorities to permit the petitioners to travel from India to South Korea."
As stated above, the Petitioners were employees of LG Chem Ltd. They claimed that they had nothing to do with the affairs of LGPI, Visakhapatnam and they had visited India as a part of the "Expert Panel" to supplement and assist the efforts being undertaken by LGPI in assessing the situation and extending care for those affected by the incident of Styrene gas leakage.
"The petitioners are employees of LGC and they are neither employees nor Directors of LGPI. Moreover, they are not involved in the day-to-day operations of LGPI's plant at Visakhapatnam," Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi submitted on their behalf.
They had approached the High Court against an order passed by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, restraining them from leaving the country, for the purposes of investigation. The authorities had contended that the Petitioners were experts and were equipped with reasons for the leakage, and as such were required for investigation.
The court however observed that the Petitioners did not appear to have any liability of the incident, more so when they are not the employees of the LGPI but of the parent Company, LGC.
In view thereof the court permitted them to travel to their native country subject to furnishing of an affidavit, undertaking to furnish all relevant information as and when required from them, and to appear before the court, if called upon.
The bench directed:
- "The petitioners shall file individual affidavits indicating their permanent residential address and of the Company along with their e-mail address, telephone number and mobile number, before the Registrar (Judicial) within three days from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.
- In the said affidavit, it be specified that as and when any response is sought for during investigation/enquiry by the authorities, the same will be furnished within two weeks from the date of receipt of such requisition, along with all relevant details as they possess.
- In the affidavit, the petitioners shall also specify that if their presence is required by the Court, they shall remain present as and when directed. But, for the purpose of investigation/enquiry, if the presence of the petitioners is felt essential by the authorities, they are at liberty to apply to the Court and in compliance to the directions of the Court, the petitioners shall tender their presence in the investigation/enquiry."
The seven Petitioners, who have been granted relief by way of two separate orders include Expert Advisor (Judicial Affairs); Professional (Judicial Affairs); Vice President (Public Relation); Professional (Human Resources & Employee Relations); Professional (Planning Administration); Professional (Production Technology); and Expert Advisor (Safety & Environment).
On a related note, the High Court had, vide order dated May 22, ordered the State Government to seize the company premises of the LG Polymers chemical plant. The court had also restrained the Directors of the Company from leaving the country without the leave of the court.
The Petitioners were represented by Senior Advocate Mukul Rohtagi with Advocate D. Narendar Naik and the Respondents by ASG N Harinath.