Vizag Gas Leak
Vizag Gas Leak|Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times
Litigation News

[Vizag Gas Leak] Andhra Pradesh HC directs seizure of LG Polymers company premises, Directors barred from leaving India without Court leave

Meera Emmanuel

The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Friday ordered the Government to seize the company premises of the LG Polymers chemical plant at Vishakapatnam, from where toxic amounts of styrene vapour had escaped on the intervening night of May 6 and 7, leading several persons being hospitalised, besides causing environmental damage. (Vizag Gas Leak case - Andhra Pradesh High Court order - May 22)

While dealing with a batch of PILs filed in the wake of the tragedy, including a suo motu PIL initiated by the High Court on the morning of May 7, the Bench of Justices Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Lalitha Kanneganti have 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.

A compliance report on the following directions is to be filed before the Court by the Government authorities by May 26.

Action taken reports silent on pertinent issues

The Court on Friday also noted that the action taken reports filed by the State and Central Government were silent on the following issues raised before the Court, i.e:

  • 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 extended 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 matter has now been listed to be taken up next on May 28.

Read the May 22 order:

Vizag Gas Leak case - Andhra Pradesh HC order - May 22.pdf
Preview

On the intervening night of May 6 and May 7, styrene vapour from a chemical plant of LG Polymers India Private Ltd (LGPI), an arm of South Korea’s LG Chem, escaped from the plant

On May 7, the High Court of Andhra Pradesh took suo motu cognizance of the incident and directed the state to take all necessary steps to mitigate the loss that may be caused due to this incident.

The next day, 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.

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