Gujarat: NGT orders Rs 15 lakh each to kin of 12 killed in chemical factory blast

The principal bench of the tribunal gave the directive, taking suo motu cognisance of The Indian Express report, and constituted a six-member committee to probe the incident and submit a report.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday ordered a compensation of Rs 15 lakh each to the families of 12 persons killed in the chemical factory blast that led to the collapse of a textile godown in Ahmedabad on November 4.

The principal bench of the tribunal gave the directive, taking suo motu cognisance of The Indian Express report, and constituted a six-member committee to probe the incident and submit a report.

The state government’s compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the kin of the deceased was handed over on Friday.

The four-member bench of the tribunal also directed that a physical inspection must be conducted in the Pirana-Piplaj area where the incident took place within seven days and an action taken report must be submitted within a month.

The tribunal, which took up the case over virtual proceedings on November 11, directed the chemical factory owner to deposit an amount of Rs 5 crore, minus the statutory compensation or ex gratia already paid to the affected, if any, with the District Magistrate, Ahmedabad, within 10 days, that is by November 21.

In case the unit fails to pay, “the amount may be recovered from the assets of the unit, if any, within one month, failing which this amount be deposited out of the state funds with liberty to recover the same from the unit or the erring officers. The amount of Rs 4 lakh already announced will be adjusted in the amount to be paid under the above direction,” the tribunal directed.

Families of the deceased persons will get Rs 15 lakh each, while those injured and hospitalised will get Rs 5 lakh each.

The six-member committee formed by the NGT will be headed by former judge of Gujarat High Court and former chief justice of Delhi HC, Justice (retd) BC Patel. It will conduct a fact-finding inquiry, by visiting the site within seven days and prepare a report.

Among the injured, 10 are still undergoing treatment in hospital. The tribunal noted that prima facie it “appears to be failure of the statutory regulatory regime” under various legislations such as the Water Act, the Air Act, the Environment (Protection) Act, Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 (The 1989 Rules) and the Chemical Accidents (Emergency, Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996 (The 1996 Rules) and the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The inquiry committee shall include representative members from the ministry of environment and forests, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), chemical engineering department of IIT-Gandhinagar, and a representative from the National Institute of Disaster Management, from its New Delhi campus.

The tribunal also stated that Gujarat Chief Secretary, Anil Mukim “may identify and take appropriate action against persons responsible for failure of law in permitting the company to operate without statutory clearances within two months and give a report to this Tribunal”.

The tribunal also referred to a June incident in Bharuch where a blast at a chemical plant in Dahej killed 10 workers, injured 75 others and displaced over 4,800 persons. The tribunal “regretfully” noted that “several such incidents have occurred in the recent past and it has been found that the mandate of law, particularly preparation of onsite and offsite plans, is not being followed”.

On November 7, the Gujarat government submitted an action taken report before the NGT, saying it has decided to conduct off-site emergency mock drills “at least once every year” for clusters with hazardous industries, in collaboration with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA). The decision came following NGT’s order on Bharuch incident.

AV Shah, member secretary of GPCB, Ahmedabad collector Sandip Sagale and PM Shah, director of Industrial Safety, Ahmedabad, were present at the virtual hearing conducted on November 11. Officials informed the tribunal that the owner of the factory was in judicial custody and that the illegal godown, a rented premise, was being operated without requisite consent for storing hazardous chemicals.

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