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Vizag Gas Leak

This article is an informative article on the recent tragic incident in our country i.e Vizag Gas Leak. It includes the happenings, reasons and the preliminary investigations about the same. This article also throws light on the ways it should've been controlled and the case laws regarding the same.

This article also focuses on government's take on the issue and how people got benefited there, what all did the police and government do to control the mishap. This article throws light on the liability occurred due to the tragedy.

The legal actions taken for the tragedy has also been discussed and NGT's stand on the same.

Introduction
Vishakhapatnam Gas leak was the accident happened in the industry of LG polymers in RR Venkatapuram village near Gopalapuram on the outskirts of Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India on the early morning of 7th May, 2020 killing about 13 people and making 1000's of people sick and unconscious after being exposed to the gas. The tragedy was totally avoidable and could have been managed with the proper functioning and check on the industry.

A harmful deadly styrene monomer vapour leaked out of a storage tank in LG Polymers which is a chemical plant owned by South Korea based LG Chemicals. Due to the covid 19 outbreak in the country the plant was not operating for almost 40 days and the temperature difference at the bottom and top portion led to the formation of vapour which later led to the gas leak. Fortunately, the styrene monomer is quite heavy in weight and can not spread in an area of more than 1.5 km of radius therefore a large area was saved.

The police came into force and a large number of people, say, 2500 were evacuated from the place and shifted to camps and other safe places. Other injured patients were rapidly taken to the hospitals and were provided the adequate medication and treatment.

Vizag Gas Leak

Vishakhapatnam or The Vizag Gas Leak was a deadly and dangerous incident happened in recent times. Vishakhapatnam is a state situated in Andhra Pradesh, India. On the early morning of 7th may 2020, a bunch of people started to feel drowsiness, nausea, breathlessness and also started to smell something pungent. In no time they started dazing and fainting because of the low supply of the oxygen to the blood and brain.

This happened because of the deadly styrene monomer vapour that leaked out of a storage tank in the city of Vizag. 13 people were found dead and 1000's were hospitalised and the place remained in the danger zone for more than 36 hours. As per the initial investigation it is found that it happened due to the unavailability of workers and non operational plant due the covid 19 outbreak and a loose end was marked.

Andhra Pradesh government also donated Rs 1 Crore each for the kin of the deceased and for those who were injured in the incident making a total of 30 crores.

It is said in the investigation that the company also didn't have the environment clearance issued by the Ministry of Environment Forest and Chemical change (MoEFCC). The LG Chemicals have expanded its operations at LG Polymers plant five times between 2006 and 2018 without clearance as according to the EIA notification (amendment) of 2006 under the Environment and Protection Act of 1986, LG chemicals falls into a petrochemical Industry category A and is liable to get a clearance from MoEFCC each time they plan to expand their plant or bring a change to the products being manufactured after November 2006.

How did the leakage occur?
On the 7th of May 2020, the plant got permission to reopen in the nationwide lockdown. The plant had 2000 metric tons of styrene stored in the tanks which were unused and unseen. It is believed that a computer glitch failed to cool down the styrene monomer causing styrene to vaporize between 2:30 am and 3:00 am and spread to the nearby areas of 1.5 km radius.

What would be the liability under law?

In India, there are two no fault liabilities, namely:

  1. Strict Liability
  2. Absolute Liability
Strict Liability says that any person who keeps hazardous substances in their premises and it escapes out creating some danger around is held to be strictly liable for it and has to pay the damages responsible for it.

Absolute Liability on the other hand was introduced in India being given no exception. Absolute Liability concerns only those enterprises which are involved in the dangerous and hazardous activities or substances and even if it does not escape out of the premises and still creates any damage in the environment or the surrounding around is absolutely liable to pay the compensation and damages. The compensation to be paid is directly proportionate to the price of the enterprise.

The Public Liability Insurance Act 1991, in India was framed and enforced of Ďabsolute liability' ignoring all the defences to escape liability and assuming responsibilities of the general public affected by its activities. The National Green Tribunal Act's section 14 read along with Schedule I of NGT Act, 2010 gives the applicability of the NGT over all the matters of environment and related provisions and acts including the compensation to the victims of the accident occurred.

Since PLIA is a no fault act and LG Polymers took the insurance under this act as per the guidelines of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, it is anomalous but considered to be a strict liability case.

National Green Tribunal on the tragedy

As soon as the tragedy happened the NGT took up the Suo Moto case and paved way to look for the case the sections 14 and 15 of the NGT Act 2010 which deals ways to deal with the hazardous chemicals escape and the arrangements and compensation to be made out of it in the emergency situation.

Compensation to be awarded

After the inquiry of the accident, the NGT ordered LG Polymers India to deposit an amount of Rs 50 crore with the Vizag DM. the amount of compensation is derived from the actual value of the plant. It is usually directly proportionate to that of the price value of the enterprise.

Also, Andhra Pradesh government donated Rs 1 Crore each for the kin of the deceased and for those who were injured in the incident making a total of 30 crores.

Few cases that were similar to the Vizag Gas tragedy are:
  1. Union Carbide Corporation vs Union Of India Etc on 4 May, 1989 Equivalent citations: 1990 AIR 273, 1989 SCC (2) 540

  2. Indian Council For Enviro-Legal ... vs Union Of India And Ors. Etc on 13 February, 1996 Equivalent citations: 1996 AIR 1446, 1996 SCC (3) 212

Conclusion

The above article gives information about the recent tragic gas incident i.e Vizag Gas Tragedy about how and why it took place. What all are to be done to improve the situation.
Government and the NGT's response towards the situation and the police's rescue protocol.
Why the situation is to be considered under the no fault liability that is strict liability.

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