New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday permitted LG Polymers India Ltd to have restricted access to its sealed plant at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, where there was a gas leakage and asked the company to provide a list of its 30 personnel who could be allowed the entry.
The Andhra Pradesh High Court has recently ordered sealing of the plant and its premises and also barred entry into the plant by all except the committees appointed by the state government. The high court had also asked the directors of the firm not to leave the country without its nod.
The apex court, in the proceedings held through video-conferencing, took note of the plea of the company that it and its certain employees be granted emergency access as there were toxic polymers inside the plant.
A bench comprising Justices U U Lalit, M M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran after hearing the submissions of senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the company, granted limited access to its 30 employee to the plant and made clear that the other contentions can be dealt with by the High Court.
As an interim measure, we permit the petitioner (firm) to give list of 30 personnel who may be granted access to the plant. List of these people shall be given today by 3 pm to the District Collector, the bench said in its order.
Rohatgi said that earlier the firm had come against an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) which had taken note of the gas leak on its own (suo motu)and had ordered payment of interim compensation of Rs 50 crore.
He said the company which was earlier thrown into the "frying pan" was into "fire" now and as many as seven committees have been formed to probe into the gas leak incident.
"The High Court has sealed the plant which is open to the High Court only," he said adding that there are toxic materials. The company wanted to participate in the proceedings and there can be more problems if it does not get the access, he said.
Earlier, the High Court had ordered the seizure of the premises of LG Polymers plant and had barred its employees the entry into the plant.
As many as 12 people, including a minor, were killed when styrene vapours leaked from the LG Polymerss plant on May 7, while several hundred fell ill after inhaling the poisonous chemical at R Venkatapuram near Visakhapatnam.
The apex court, on May 19, had asked LG Polymers India to approach the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to raise the issue regarding setting up of multiple committees to probe the May 7 gas leakage from its plant in Visakhapatnam.
On May 8, the NGT had slapped an interim penalty of Rs 50 crore on the firm and sought response from the Centre and others in the gas leak incident saying "there appears to be a failure to comply with the said Rules and other statutory provisions".
The tribunal had set up a five-member committee, headed by former Andhra Pradesh High Court judge Justice B Seshasayana Reddy, to probe into the incident in the plant and submit a report before May 18.
The committee has to submit report on sequence of events, causes of failure and persons and authorities responsible, extent of damage to life among others.
A major early morning chemical leak from the polymer plant had impacted villages in 5-km radius, leaving many people dead and scores of citizens suffering from breathlessness and other problems.
The leak was noticed by company staff who were reportedly inspecting machines to restart the factory and raised an alarm. Hours after the styrene gas leak around 2.30 am on May 7 from the plant at the village, scores of people could be seen lying unconscious on sidewalks, near ditches and on the road, raising fears of a major industrial disaster.