The 2020, which created an eerie situation from it’s birth in the name of “Corona Virus”, before giving a relief left the people in another devastated situation with the Visakhapatnam Gas Tragedy.
The whole world is staying indoors due to the invisible enemy called Corona Virus. When all are in a thought to relax from the war with the invisible enemy, an unexpected tragedy took place in Visakhapatnam.
Background and effects of tragedy :-
All this tragedy took cause of the LG Polymers industry. LG company which manufactures electric fan blades, cups, cutlery, containers for cosmetics products such as makeup and more others products, has its wings extended towards the World. One of its branch is located in RR Venkatapuram village, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The plant uses raw material Styrene (C8H8) to make its products. The exposure of Styrene gas in the air lead to this incident.
Styrene which is a dangerous chemical compound, if exposed or inhaled by human causes eye irritation, breathing trouble, and causes infection in mouth. It causes severe health damages like lethargy, cancer, and also have long standing effects on liver and the reproductive system.
The storage tank of 2000 MT had 1900 MT, due to the pressure built cause of long stability there took changes in temperature and this caused the leak of gas as vapours, which affected at least 2,000 residents in five villages around the factory.
The legal view :-
One should be careful and follow safety measures while dealing with hazardous materials. However moral values cannot be considered by courts with no legal damage or violation in it. In situations like this, it is expected to pay the
compensation from the company. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 is the most related case to our present issue. Whereas the loss caused in Bhopal is far more high than the RR V puram tragedy. So, even the compensation for this issue might be less than the previous one.
During the Bhopal gas tragedy, it was Strict Liability. It is the theory that imposes legal responsibility for damages or injuries for any non-natural activity on their premises regardless of whether they did anything wrong. There are some limited expectations and defences, including n accident caused by “Act Of God”, in this Strict Liability.
Here, in the case of Visakhapatnam tragedy it is “Absolute Liability”, it is the liability in which he/she cannot avoid the liability for acting a reasonable mistake of fact, un till they are proved innocent.
The Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nundy warns that a full and proper assessment of the effect of the gas leak remains to be made, and that alone should be the basis for compensation :
“It is still the Golden hour of evidence. It is vital at this point for the probe to be judicially monitored, for independent experts from the IITs and the other institutions to be involved to make sure that it’s not posited as a mere accident due to the negligence of some lower level officials.
The design of the plan has to be looked into, as well as the regulatory mechanism whether safety where being done properly and regularly, as central and state government agencies will both be responsible for this under the Environmental Protection Act.”
The Claims for the Compensation :-
The reason that this should be watch out is, because LG polymers, like Union Crabide, is owned by a foreign company-in this case South Korea based LG chem, which is related to the LG electronics Company. While foreign companies can most certainly be taken to the court in India, the logistics of compensation and prosecution are more complex than for a domestic company- whether this will see the central government try to step in remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the Government of Andhra Pradesh declared an amount od Rs.1,00,00,000 for each family of dead peoples. But this will not reduce the compensation that to be paid by the company. The company shall be liable for not just the dead persons, it is even liable for the persons who are injured, effected and hospitalised.
Under the Liability Insurance Act 1991, people who have suffered harm from a hazardous substance used by an industry, can file a claim with the local Collector within 5 years of the accident. This Act helps the victim to claim compensation immediately than through the courts and can still approach the courts for higher compensations.
The Work Act :-
Apart from the liability, we can also see that the company broke the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. This particular Act gives scope of regulations that to be followed by a company for the safety measures in and at work place. If we check, we can identify many houses located near the LG Polymers company. When a company is dealing hazardous substances, it’s the sole responsibility of the company to take safety measures and inform the people near by about the safety measures to be taken and the measures to be followed if in case of dangerous acts.
The question is,
“Did the company informed the people staying near-by about the hazardous substance being used ?”
“Have the company taken enough safety measures before re-starting the work ?”
“Are there any warning alarms working perfectly in the factory, which would have alerted people ? ”
When the news broke of this chemical gas leak, everyone remained the Bhopal gas nightmare. Each and everyone worried that this may effect as same as that nightmare. But the effects are far more than the Bhopal one. However, apart from the numbers of injuries and deaths, the loss had happened and the mistake is made. Comparatively seeing says, both the Union Crabide and the LG polymers are foreign companies operating in India.
The public and authorities are questioning that How can a foreign company operating in India can be so negligent in case of Lives of people and also in case of environmental protection. Such type of companies are shifting to India and easing their businesses. Hope, the actions that to be taken regarding this incident might help in preventing these type of tragedies.
Author: D.Sravya Reddy,
Ifim Law School, 1st year, Student