LG Polymers liable under Principle of ‘Strict Liability’ for Vizag gas leak: NGT
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health & GS-III – Industries; Environment
- The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order in the Visakhapatnam gas tragedy found LG Polymers liable under Principle of “strict liability”.
- It was sacked in India by the Supreme Court in 1986.
- However, lawyers say the term “absolute liability” should have been used.
Important value additions:
Strict liability principle
- Under this principle, a party is not liable and need not pay compensation if a hazardous substance escapes his premises by accident or by an “act of God’” among other circumstances.
- It was evolved in an 1868 English case which provided companies with several exemptions from assuming liability.
Absolute Liability Principle
- The Supreme Court, while deciding the Oleum gas leak case of Delhi in 1986, found strict liability inadequate to protect citizens’ rights and replaced it with the ‘absolute liability principle’.
- Under this principle, a company in a hazardous industry cannot claim any exemption.
- It has to mandatorily pay compensation, whether or not the disaster was caused by its negligence.
- It is part of Article 21 (right to life).
National Green Tribunal
- It is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the cases pertaining to environmental issues.
- It draws inspiration from the Article 21 – Protection of life and personal liberty – which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
- India became the third country in the world to set up a specialised environmental tribunal, only after Australia and New Zealand, and the first developing country to do so.
- NGT is mandated to make disposal of applications or appeals within 6 months of filing.
- The NGT has five places of sittings –
- New Delhi and Bhopal (Principal place)
- The Tribunal has jurisdiction over all civil cases.
The Visakhapatnam gas leak
- It was an industrial accident that occurred at the LG Polymers chemical plant on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India, on 7 May 2020.
- Preliminary investigations concluded that the accident was likely the result of improper maintenance of units storing the styrene monomer, improper storage and operation errors.