The court has also sought explanation from the government and LG Polymers on many issues, including the movement of styrene monomer to S Korea without the court’s permission.

LG polymers unit in VishakapatanamImage: PTI
news Judiciary Sunday, May 24, 2020 - 16:56

The Andhra Pradesh High Court passed interim directions on Friday in the Vizag gas leak case, ordering the seizure of the LG Polymers company premises. The court directed that no one must be allowed to enter the premises, including the directors of the company. None of the assets of the company will be allowed to be moved without permission from the court, the order said. 

While the case came up for hearing earlier on Friday, the full order copy surfaced on Sunday on LiveLaw.

While the directors of LG Polymers have already surrendered their passports and are currently in India, the court in its interim directions said that without the court’s permission, their passports must not be released and they cannot be allowed to leave India. 

The respondents in the case, including LG Polymers, the state government and police, the Union government, Visakhapatnam District Collector and the Superintendent of King George Hospital have been asked to file the compliance report by May 26. 

While the state and central governments have filed affidavits in the HC after the case was taken up suo motu on May 7, the court took note of multiple PILs filed on the incident since then. The HC sought explanation regarding the failure on LG Polymers’ part to obtain a valid Environmental Clearance (EC) from the Ministry of Environment, the failure of the siren system of the factory, the improper functioning of the refrigeration system in the factory, as well as the presence of educational institutions hospitals etc in the vulnerable zone, and the failure to train the population in vulnerable zones in evacuation procedures. The court noted that the replies from the state and central government do not comment on these issues. 

The court has also sought a reply from the government on the net worth of LG Polymers based on the provisions of the Companies Act, and an explanation on the reason for transporting the styrene monomer back to South Korea before the appointment of an inspection team and without permission of the court. 

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court declined to entertain a plea by LG Polymers seeking a stay on the order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which formed a five-member committee to assess the damage and conduct a probe into the gas leak.  

A Supreme Court bench had noted that the Andhra Pradesh High Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident and formed a committee, and stated that the company may approach the NGT and inform it that a committee has been formed by a court of constitutional authority.

On the intervening night of May 6 and May 7, styrene gas leaked from a chemical plant of LG Polymers India Private Ltd in RR Venkatapuram village on the outskirts of Vizag. The leak claimed 12 lives and led to hospitalisation of hundreds of others.

On May 7, the High Court took suo motu cognizance of the incident. On May 8, the NGT also took suo motu cognizance of the incident and directed the company to deposit an initial amount of Rs 50 crore with the District Magistrate, Visakhapatnam.

The Andhra Pradesh government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs one crore to the kin of the deceased and different compensation packages to victims depending on the severity of their ailments.

 

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