NEW DELHI: The National Green tribunal Monday slapped a penalty of Rs 25 crore on a company where a huge fire caused by a blast in the boiler at Dahej in Bharuch district of Gujarat on June 3 resulted in the death of eight workers.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed Yashashvi Rasayan Pvt.Ltd to deposit an amount minus the statutory compensation/ex gratia payments already made to the victims, if any, with the District Magistrate, Bharuch within 10 days from today.
The liability of the Company is strict and absolute for the loss caused by its activities, the NGT said.
"The amount may be disbursed by the District Magistrate by making disbursement plan. Disbursement plan may consider safeguards to ensure that amount reaches the beneficiaries and is not misappropriated by any intermediary," the bench said.
The tribunal said that it is undisputed during the hearing that the company is engaged in the manufacture of hazardous chemicals and is covered by the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 and Chemical Accidents (Emergency, Planning, Preparedness, and Response) Rules, 1996.
"It has to prepare and follow an onsite and offsite emergency plan which is required to be duly audited and overseen by the statutory authorities including the Chief Inspector of Factories (CIFs), Department of Industries, the District Magistrate, the State PCB, and the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization," the bench, also comprising Justice S.P.Wangdi, and expert member Satyawan Singh Garbyal said.
It said the dependents/heirs of the deceased, as well as the injured persons, the persons displaced on account of the incident, have to be duly compensated and the company also has to bear the cost of restoration of the environment.
"While the company and other concerned have to be given a due opportunity, an interim director for compensation on the basis of available material cannot brook any delay.
Interim compensation can be awarded on the conservative subject to final compensation being determined later.
"While no compensation for death or injury or displacement may be adequate and the environment is priceless, having regard to facts and circumstances and on ad hoc basis, we assess interim compensation for death to be 15 lacs each for grievous injury Rs. 5 lakh per person, for other injuries of persons, hospitalized Rs.2.5 lakh per person and for displacement at Rs 25,000 per person," the NGT said.
The tribunal said that since this tragedy follows so close on the heels of Vizag gas leak incident, it may be necessary to ensure that risk studies are duly undertaken by all industries in the country dealing with the hazardous chemicals and their on-site and off-site plans are operational and mock drills are carried out for testing the same.
The NGT also constituted a six-member committee headed by former High Court judge Justice BC Patel and sought a report in a month.
The committee also comprises representatives of Environment Ministry, Central Pollution Control Board, National Environmental Engineering Research Institut, National Institute of Disaster Management, and Head of the Chemical Engineering Department of the IIT Gandhinagar.
"Bharuch District Magistrate and Gujarat pollution control board will provide logistic support to the committee to enable their fact-finding and reporting. The committee will be at liberty to take the assistance of such experts, individuals, and institutions as may be considered necessary," the bench said.
The committee may as far as possible make final quantification of compensation and also prepare a restoration plan in association with the District Magistrate, it said.
"Gujarat Chief Secretary may identify and take appropriate action against persons responsible for the failure of law in permitting the Company to operate without statutory clearances within two months and give a report to this tribunal," the bench said.
The tribunal's order came on a plea filed by NGO Aryavart Foundation through its President alleging that the company failed to follow requisite precautions and safety protocols.
The NGO said that the company is strictly and absolutely liable for the damage caused to the human lives, human health, property, and the environment in violation of environmental norms.
At least 50 workers of the chemical factory were injured while eight died on June 3 in a huge fire caused by a blast in the boiler at Dahej in Bharuch district of Gujarat.
About 4,800 inhabitants of the nearby villages had to be moved to a safer place on account of the incident.