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

Vizag Gas Leak: Andhra Pradesh HC permits travel of 7 South Korean employees of LG Chemicals Korea out of India [Read Orders]

The 7 South Korean nationals had come to India to assess the situation after the gas leak. It was noted that since they are not employees of LG Polymers India, they may not have any primary responsibility in the case.

Meera Emmanuel

The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Wednesday permitted seven South Korean employees of LG Chemicals Korea (LGC) to travel back to South Korea, after they were prevented from doing so citing the pending investigation into the Styrene Gas Leak from the LG Polymers India (LGPI) plant at Visakhapatnam.

To this end, the Bench of Chief Justice JK Maheshwari and Lalitha Kanneganti allowed three writ petitions filed by the South Korean nationals.

These pleas had challenged the travel restrictions imposed on them after they had come to India as part of an expert delegation to assist efforts by LGPI to assess the situation following the Styrene gas leak last May.

As stated in the order passed in one of the writ petitions i.e. Kug Lae No v. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors,

“In the facts of the present case, in which the petitioner came to India as part of the Expert Team being employee of the parent company, primarily he may not have any liability of the incident, more so, when he is to employee of LGPI and is the employee of the parent Company - LGC and came to India from South Korea to assist or ti find out the cause for the incident. In such a situation, we deem it appropriate to direct the authorities to permit the petitioner to travel from India to South Korea…”

Similar orders were passed in two allied writ petitions (Byung Kook Kang and ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors. and Jong Un Lee and ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors) filed by six other South Korean nationals, who highlighted that:

  • LGPI is a wholly-owned subsidiary of LG Chemical India Private Limited (LGCI), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of LGC.

  • LG Polymers India, from whose plant the gas leak had occurred, works independently

  • The petitioners were neither employees nor directors of LGPI

  • Therefore, the petitioners involved in the day to day operations of LGPI, Vishakhpatnam

  • The petitioners were willing to cooperate with investigation from South Korea

All the petitioners stated that they had sent letters on June 1 and June 5 urging the Police to record their statements. However, it was submitted that this was delayed by the Police without any reasons, and in turn the petitioners were restrained from travelling back to South Korean citing the pending investigation.

On their part, the police asserted that the presence of these nationals were essential to the investigation in the gas leak case, since they were experts who had conducted an inspection in the plant and who may, therefore, be equipped with reasons to explain the gas leak.

Taking note of this concern, the Court has imposed certain conditions on the nationals while permitting their travel back to South Korea. These conditions are as follows:

  • File an affidavit indicating the permanent residential address of the petitioners as well as of the Company along with personal e-mail, address, telephone number and mobile number before the Registrar (Judicial) within three days.

  • Any response sought during investigation or inquiry shall be furnished within two weeks. An undertaking to this effect is to be part of the affidavit

  • It is also to be specified in the affidavit that the petitioners shall remain present as and when directed. If the presence of a person is felt essential by the authorities during their investigation, they are at liberty to apply to the Court and the petitioner should present himself if the Court directs the same.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi and Advocate D Narender Naik appeared for the petitioners. Advocate General Subrahmanyam Sriram appeared for the State authorities.

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.

On May 22, the Court ordered the Government to seize the company premises of the LG Polymers chemical plant and also barred the Company Directors from leaving India without the Court's leave.

Read the orders:

Kug Lae No v. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors .pdf
Byung Kook Kang and ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors. .pdf
Jong Un Lee and ors. v. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors..pdf
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