The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 19 May, declined to interfere with the interim order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) regarding the Vizag Gas Leak.
On 8 May, the NGT had issued an interim order regarding the gas leak at the LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam the day before. In the order, the tribunal had directed the company to pay Rs 50 crores as compensation immediately, and it also set up a five-member committee headed by retired Andhra Pradesh High Court judge B Seshayana Reddy, to inquire into the incident, which claimed 11 lives.
LG Polymers approached the Supreme Court to challenge the NGT taking cognizance of the issue even though the Andhra Pradesh High Court had already done so, and also to challenge the setting up of this committee, as the high court and central government had also set up their own inquiry committees.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the company in the video conferencing proceedings before the apex court, noted that LG Polymers had already deposited the Rs 50 crore interim compensation amount, and that this challenge was not meant to affect the payment of the same.
However, with the Andhra Pradesh HC already setting up one committee on 7 May, and the Union Government's Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) as well as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) setting up their, Rohatgi questioned whether the NGT could set up a committee of its own.
When asked for details of the other committees, Rohatgi pointed out that the company's offices were shut and so he did not have all the information.
He noted that the multiple requests by different committees and the current situation had meant that the NGT’s committee had been unable to access the plant when they had visited it.
The bench headed by Justice UU Lalit observed that the question of the NGT's jurisdiction was not something for the Supreme Court to decide, though LG Polymers could raise it at the next hearing by the tribunal on 1 June. The judges also suggested that the company could raise the issue of whether the NGT could set up a committee after the high court had already done so at that hearing.
In light of this, the apex court did not issue notice in the case, nor did it dismiss LG Polymers' petition. The matter has been listed for 8 June, by which time the NGT would have heard the company's arguments about jurisdiction and the committees and made a decision.