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Vizag Gas Leak : AP HC Directs Seizure Of LG Polymers Premises; Restrains Directors From Leaving Country [Read Order]

24 May 2020 10:06 AM GMT
Vizag Gas Leak : AP HC Directs Seizure Of LG Polymers Premises; Restrains Directors From Leaving Country [Read Order]
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The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday ordered the State Government to seize the company premises of the LG Polymers chemical plant at Vishakapatnam, from where the leakage of the Styrene chemical occurred during the wee hours of May 7, leaving many persons dead and injured.

The Court also restrained the Directors of the Company from leaving the country without the leave of the court.

The Bench of Chief Justice J K Maheshwari and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti  issued the following directions:

  • The premises of the company shall be completely seized;
  • No one should be allowed to enter into the premises including the Directors of the company;
  • If a Committee, if any, appointed wants to inspect the premises, they are at liberty to. However, they shall put a note on the Register maintained at the gate of the Company regarding the said inspection and while returning, a note regarding the act down on the premises should also be noted.
  • None of the assets, movable or immovable, fixture, machinery and contents shall be allowed to be shifted without the leave of the Court
  • The surrendered passports of the Company Directors should not be released without the leave of the Court.
  • The Company Directors are not allowed to go outside India without leave
  • The Goverment should inform the Court whether any permission was obtained to restart the company's operations during the lockdown period. If not, an action taken report on this aspect should be filed,
  • Given the grievance that multiple Committees over the issue have been appointed (by the NG, the Central Government and the State Government) the Government authorities may apprise the Court as to which Committee shall fulfil the purpose to answer all questions raised on the issue.

The Court  also noted that the action taken reports filed by the State and Central Government were silent on the following issues:

  • LG Polymers has been operating without a valid Environmental Clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC);
  • The inhibitor concentration in the storage tank was not checked;
  • Refrigeration system was no working properly;
  • The radius of the vulnerable zone was exetended up to 6.3km from the source;
  • There are several hospitals, educational institutions, places of worship, railway stations and airport within the vulnerable zone;
  • The bystander population should have been informed of the risk that they were in and trained in evacuation procedures in the event of an accident as per Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989. But this has not been done;
  • The siren/ alarm system did not function.

After recording that the Government authorities had prayed for time to respond on these aspects, the Court also direct the Government to apprise the Court on the following additional issues, i.e.:

  1. What is the net worth of LG Polymers Pvt. Ltd. as per the provisions of the Companies Act, but not as per the book value?
  2. Why was styrene monomer permitted to be transported to South Korea and who is the person responsible for the same, when no Court permission was granted for the same and when no investigation/ inspection team was appointed and no Magisterial enquiry was made, despite these being a requirement after the registration of the crime?

The Court passed the directions in a suo moto case taken by it following the deadly gas leak.

While taking suo moto notice of the tragedy on May 7, the Court had noted that Styrene is notified as a dangerous substance under the provisions of the Environmental Protection Act and as per the Chemical Accident (Emergency Planning, Preparedness, and Response) Rules of 1996, certain crisis response steps need to be taken, such as formulation of Crisis alert system, central crisis group, state crisis group all the way down to local crisis group.

"It is a matter of enquiry and assessment that the provisions of the said Rules have been observed or not", the Court had observed.

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