Decided on –
15th June 2020
- Hon’ble Mr. Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson
- Hon’ble Mr. Justice Uday Umesh Lalit
- Hon’ble Mr. Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar
- Hon’ble Mr. Justice Vineet Saran
Supreme Court of India
Citation (Currently Not Available) –
CIVIL APPEAL Diary No(s). 11327/2020
This case LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. v. Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board deals with the situation where a toxic gas Styrene was leaked from one of the plants of the LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. from the southern direction on the morning of 7th May 2020 in Gopalapatnam in Vishakhapatnam. A committee consisting representatives from Ministry of Environment, Central Pollution Control Board and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute was appointed for examinations. This case successfully applied the Doctrine of Absolute Liability on the South Korean company LG Polymers. The doctrine was applied for the loss of life and public health in the gas leak. The National Green Tribunal directed LG Polymers to pay Rs. 50 crore as interim penalty to the aggrieved parties.
Facts and History of the case –
- Early morning on 7th May 2020, there was a leak of Styrene Gas from one of the plants of the LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd (defendant).
- The gas leak was suspected as residents of the Gopalapatnam felt some pungent smell of some gas and many people felt dizziness which is generally uncommon.
- With the help of the wind direction the residents found out the gas leak from the southern direction and confirmed.
- Though many people were able to save their lives because of prompt evacuation form the area, still the lives of 12 people and 34 animals were lost. People around the villages who were near the plant were affected and lost their lives, the affected villages were within 3km radius of the plant.
- The people and animals died due to inhalation of the carcinogenic gas Styrene.
- The gas was confirmed to be leaked from one of the containers of the compound which has the gas stored in them.
- The Plant of the defendant was about to start operations as it had remained closed for 43 days because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- The leak took place after the plant of the defendant was about to start operations. It was confirmed that the tragic accident was a result of a human error.
- The error was that the temperature was not maintained accordingly which should have been maintained below 20 degree Celsius in the storage tanks which contained the Styrene gas.
Rule applied in the case –
- Doctrine of Absolute Liability was applied in this case.
- This principle says that if any industry dealing in the production/manufacture of any hazardous products or involved in any dangerous activity then if any damage arises of accident takes place the defendants i.e., the owner of the industry will have not access to any exception and will be absolutely (completely liable with no defence) liable to pay the compensation to the aggrieved parties and for the damage done to the environment.
- The industry would be held liable for any plausible damage or accidents or consequences occurring from its activities.
- Through this doctrine, it is necessary for all the industries to provide with safety measure, equipment, and related safety items to the workers so that major industrial accidents could be avoided, and mishaps could be prevented from taking place.
- This will create a safe working environment for the workers and will provide safe surroundings for the people residing nearby.
Issues involved –
- How is LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. responsible?
- How will the rule of liability be applied whether absolutely or strictly?
- How the victims will be compensated?
- What were the proposals of the committee appointed?
Analysis of the Judgement –
As per the verdict of the court and proposal of the National Green Tribunal, the LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. was Absolutely Liable. The accident was found out to be a result of human error. The National Green Tribunal had ordered the LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd. to provide INR 50 crore as interim penalty to the aggrieved parties, victims and for the loss of environmental hygiene. 19,893 affected people were each compensated with INR 10,000. Health cards are provided to families with better healthcare facilities and monitoring their health. Also, village health clinics are under process to be established in the villages. The plant was sealed and shut down as per the proposals of the appointed committee. The Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board examined the failures through the provisions of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (Section 39 and 40).
The above-mentioned case was yet another tragic incident resulting from industrial leaks which were hazardous. The company was held liable under the various provisions of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the doctrine of Absolute Liability was applied. The plant of the defendant which led to the toxic and carcinogenic gas leak is seized.
Amity Law School, Noida