Vizag gas leak: SC declines relief to LG Polymers over NGT direction to deposit ₹50 crore

While the petitioner’s counsel challenged the jurisdiction of the NGT in the matter, the SC asked him to approach the Tribunal itself on the next date of hearing in the case

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)

NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to issue notice on a plea filed by LG Polymers against the order passed by NGT which directed the South Korean company to pay 50 crores and constituted a fact-finding committee.

The apex court asked the company to raise questions regarding jurisdiction of the NGT before the Tribunal itself.

On 8th May, the National Green Tribunal had taken suo moto cognizance of the chemical gas leak incident which had taken place at Vizag in Andhra Pradesh. A Bench of the NGT headed by Chairperson Justice AK Goel directed LG polymers India Pvt. Ltd. to deposit a sum of ₹ 50 crores with the District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam.

The NGT had also directed for the constitution of a 5-member Committee, headed by Justice B. Seshasayana Reddy, former Judge of Andhra Pradesh and instructed the Committee "to visit and inspect the site at the earliest and give its report before the next date".

A Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit heard the plea on Tuesday.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the petitioner, informed the Bench that the entire sum of Rs. 50 crores had been deposited as they did not wish to stall any proceedings.

"On 7th May, this gas leak occurred. On 8th May, I was directed to deposit Rs. 50 crores. I have deposited the same and I am not raising any concerns regarding that. My immediate problem is that the NGT has constituted a committee. Now, there are 7 committees which have been appointed," he submitted.

Rohatgi submitted that the LG Polymers plant was closed, and the NGT-appointed Committee had visited the site three times, without any prior notice. He raised two legal issues with regard to the matter:

1. Whether NGT can order suo moto proceedings;

2. The substantive thing would be to have one Committee, instead of 7 committees.

Justice Lalit asked Rohatgi about the details of the Central Government Committee. However, due to lack of access to files, Rohatgi could not answer the same. He continued with the legal hurdle, "Can NGT order a suo moto case when a case is proceeding in higher courts?"

Rohatgi further contended that NGT had no jurisdiction to take suo moto cognizance of the case, to which Justice Lalit informed him that he had to prove that NGT did not have jurisdiction.

The Bench was then taken through the High Court's order and Rohatgi submitted that the High Court had also gone into great detail regarding whether the High Court was right or whether the NGT was right.

"There's also a committee by NHRC. How many committees are required? There's an inquiry by the Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The court needs to see which authorities have the role to order these committees."

To Rohatgi's submission, Justice Lalit stated, "Incident occurred on May 7, and the order passed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court was on May 7. So, since the High Court was the first one to take action, you may impress upon the NGT that a committee has been formed by a court of constitutional authority. NGT was not aware of these developments when it passed the Order on May 8. It would be unfair on our part to injunct".

Justice Lalit further stated that notice would not be issued at this stage and the matter would be kept pending.

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