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Gauhati HC Issues Notices to Centre, Assam Govt, OIL for Drilling Inside Forest, Adjacent to Baghjan Well Site

File photo: People walk behind cattle, as smoke rises after the natural gas well of Oil India Limited (OIL) caught fire at Baghjan, Tinsukia district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, Tuesday, June 9, 2020.  (AP Photo/Partha Sarothi Das)

File photo: People walk behind cattle, as smoke rises after the natural gas well of Oil India Limited (OIL) caught fire at Baghjan, Tinsukia district in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Partha Sarothi Das)

The National Board of Wildlife, State Board of Wildlife, Oil India Ltd (OIL), General Manager, The Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner and Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Board were also made parties in the case.

Gauhati High Court on Wednesday issued notices to the Centre, Assam government, Oil India and different agencies in a case related to granting permission to the PSU to drill seven wells inside Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, which is adjacent to Baghjan well tragedy site. Hearing the PIL filed jointly by advocate Mrinmoy Khataniar and mountaineer Amar Jyoti Deka, a HC bench comprising Chief Justice (Acting) N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Manish Choudhury directed the 14 respondents to file their affidavits within two weeks and fixed October 20 as the next date.

The bench considered another PIL filed by another advocate Gautam Uzir along with it as both were filed on the same issue. "On the earlier date, the Court had asked the opposing parties to reply to the PIL. However, no one replied except Oil India. So, the Court today issued notices to all the respondents and gave two weeks' time," the petitioners'advocate Rakhee Sirauthia Chowdhury said.

She said although OIL has replied to the Court'searlier direction, the notice was issued to them on an additional affidavit filed by the petitioners. The petitioners made 14 respondents in the case -Government of India (GoI), Secretary to GoI, Assam government, Principal Secretary, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Head of Forest Force and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest(Wildlife).

The National Board of Wildlife, State Board of Wildlife, Oil India Ltd (OIL), General Manager, The Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner and Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Board were also made parties in the case. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change(MoEF&CC) had accorded environmental clearance to Oil India Ltd (OIL) for drilling and testing of hydrocarbons at seven locations under Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, north west of Baghjan in Tinsukia district.

Fire is raging at OIL's Baghjan well site since June 9following a gas blowout from well number five since May 27.Two firefighters were killed in the blaze.

The Assam government had said earlier this month that two more months are likely to be taken by the experts to douse the flame. The PIL was filed against the Centre's approval to OIL for drilling inside the forest, which is very rich in biodiversity, by amending existing norms like public hearing under the draft Environment Impact Assessment Notification2020.

first published:September 30, 2020, 16:52 IST