Tribunal Victims of Gujarat Chemical Factory blast liable to compensation:...

Victims of Gujarat Chemical Factory blast liable to compensation: NGT

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New Delhi, Mar 25 (ILNS) The National Green Tribunal today held that victims of a Gujarat chemical factory blast are entitled to compensation, for which the primary liability is of the operator of the godown and the state of Gujarat is vicariously liable due to the failure of its authorities in performing their responsibility of checking hazardous activities being conducted without requisite safeguards.

The NGT directed that the heirs of the deceased as well as the injured may be given compensation as already determined as an interim measure without prejudice.

The NGT had earlier directed to pay interim compensation of Rs 15 lakh for the deceased and Rs five lakh for the injured. In the chemical factory blast, 13 people were killed and nine injured. The NGT had taken a suo motu cognisance of an Indian Express report dated November 4, 2020.

The major blast had occurred in an illegal chemical factory last year, running on the agricultural land in the name of Sahil Enterprises Chemical Boiler Factory, at Pirana-Riplaj Road, Ahmedabad.

A bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice Sheo Kumar Singh (Judicial Member) and Dr Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) directed the state of Gujarat to take remedial measures to ensure that such incidents do not occur in future and hold accountable persons responsible for the failure of the oversight.

The Tribunal further directed a Joint Committee of Director, Industrial Safety and Health (DISH), Gujarat and state PCB in coordination with respective Municipal Corporations and District Magistrates, to conduct survey of the entire state to ascertain if any other such activities are going on and if so, take remedial action by way of closing such activities.

The Court said, “The State PCB will be the nodal agency for coordination and compliance. The said committee may give its report to the Chief Secretary, Gujarat within three months for further remedial action.”

The court also said in its order that the state is not liable to pay compensation to the owner of the factory who also died, as he himself was responsible for his illegal hazardous actions. “However, the state is not debarred from making any ex-gratia payment. For death of all other persons and injured, the state will be liable to pay compensation, without prejudice to its right to recover the same from the violators of law or erring officers, following the due process of law. The responsibility for compliance will be of the Chief Secretary, Gujarat, through the District Magistrate, Ahmedabad,” it added.

The matter was considered on November 11, 2020 after serving advance notice to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB); the Gujarat State Pollution Control Board; the District Magistrate, Ahmedabad; Director of Industrial Safety, Ahmedabad and Sahil Enterprises Chemical Boiler Factory. The court had constituted a six-member committee for the investigation and submission of the final report.

Accordingly, the Joint Committee had filed its report on January 28, 2021, which showed that there was a violation of revenue law in construction on agricultural land and also of Municipal law. The Revenue Department, the District Administration, the Municipal Corporation, the Industries Department as well as Environment Departments of Gujarat have certainly failed in preventing the incident by not implementing the necessary statutory precautions, added the report. ILNS/SNG/RJ

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