Styrene Gas Leakage: Supreme Court Orders LGP to Raise Question of Jurisdiction Before the Tribunal Itself

On 7th May morning in Andhra Pradesh, there was a leakage of hazardous gas called styrene from a chemical factory owned by the south Korean company named LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. This incident caused death of 11 people and hospitalization of more than 100 people out of them 25 were reported to be serious. More than 1000 people were reported to be sick in the surrounded area of the factory.

In our previous article we saw that Committees like Andhra Pradesh High Court, the NGT, and the National Human Rights Commission took suo motu Cognizance of this incident out of which NGT had ordered LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. to deposit Rs. 50 Crores and formed a committee to visit and inspect the sight to submit its report before the next hearing.

Aggrieved by the order of the NGT, Company initiated action against NGT order in Supreme Court. Where Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi appearing on behalf of Company submitted that the Company do not want to stall any proceedings and has also deposited Rs. 50 Crores as directed by NGT but questioned the direction for formation of the committee. The issues which were raised by the Senior counsel was (1)Whether the NGT can take suo motu proceedings? (2) Whether there is any need for setting up so many committees for one incident? Senior counsel submitted that seven committees are being setup to look into this incident. Amongst many some them are committee formed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the NGT, and the National Human Rights Commission. He further contended that when High Court of Andhra Pradesh had already initiated the matter, NGT could have not taken up the matter.

Supreme Court observed that though the questions raised by appellant are legal in nature but green tribunal is already seized of the matter. The Hon’ble bench of Supreme Court led by Justice Uday Lalit said that the Company may approach the NGT and inform them about the constitutional authority set up by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The Apex court further asked the appellant to raise the question of jurisdiction of NGT before the tribunal itself on the next hearing of the NGT. Supreme Court orders that the notice cannot be issued at this stage and matter will be kept pending.

The NGT Act 2010 does not expressly provide the authority to initiate suo motu proceedings but NGT has taken many cases on their own even before. Cases like Court on Its Own Motion v. State of Himachal Pradesh 6 February 2014., Tribunal on Its Own Motion v. Secretary, MoEF 4 April 2014., Tribunal on Its Own Motion v. Government of NCT 19 June 2015., Tribunal on Its Own Motion v. Union of India 2013 SCC Online 1095., have taken suo motu proceedings simply on the grounds of Environmental Protection and Human Welfare.

Now in present case the ball is again in the court of NGT. Issue of jurisdiction will be considered and it will be important to see if jurisdiction and ability to take suo motu cognizance affects the principle of distributive justice to victims.

  By,

Adv. Aditi Rajput | Abhay Nevagi & Associates.