The world is struggling because of the COVID 19 epidemics and the misery of the worldwide lockdown. While the nation was busy fighting coronavirus concerns, India saw a horrific gas leak in LG polymer production near Andhra Pradesh, Visakhapatnam.
The incidence of gas leaks is constantly increasing in India. These incidents impact the environment as well as the families of people who live nearby. India has faced some major gas leak tragedies like Korba Chimney Collapse (2009), Jaipur oil depot fire (2009), Visakhapatnam HPCL Refinery Blast (2013), Tughlakabad Gas leak (2017), Bhilai steel plant pipeline Blast (2018), etc.
The country has experienced the worst Gas leak tragedy and is working towards making some strict legislation for saving the environment and saving the life of people who are affected by such incidents. Let’s examine the laws made by the government and court take on such incidents.
PRESENT LAWS RELATED TO THE GAS LEAK
After the breathtaking Bhopal Gas tragedy, the Indian government implemented The Environment Protection Act (E.P.A) of 1986 under Article 253 of the Indian Constitution. the act strengthens the regulations on pollution control and the environment from hazardous industries. Under the provision of Section 25 of the EPA, 1986, another set of rules "Hazardous Waste (Handling and Handling) Regulations, 1989" was passed. It includes the management of 18 categories of waste, essentially all toxic chemicals that could be stored in industries and used for different purposes.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 1994, includes nearly all types of activities that could harm the environment in any way. Through this notification, an impact assessment of any project has become mandatory. The central government is required to carry out a large-scale environmental impact assessment before approving any projects listed in the notification.
According to Rule 2 (e) read under entry 583 of Annex 1 to the Regulations on the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals, 1989. This rule was enacted under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986, which is one of the seven provisions specified in Annex I of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
The National Green Tribunal Act, 2020 also excludes the jurisdiction of a civil court to resolve any matter relating to any claim that may be tried by the court. The Supreme Court has recognized that the court is only the first court. Therefore, the National Green Tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over LG polymer gas leaks and other environmental disputes.
Before the tragedy, there were laws like water Act of 1974 and Air Act of 1981 but the law like Environment Protection Act provides a surface to the Central Government for the coordination of various state and Central authorities established under previous law. So, it would not be wrong to say that if the right legislative framework existed then either this tragedy would not have occurred or the suffering of the people could have been reduced the lack of adequate and sufficient laws has resulted in the loss of the lives of thousands of people and left many to suffer and live-in pain from the aftermath of the tragedy.
COURT’S TAKE ON SUCH TRAGEDY
A very famous case of M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India was filed in court as GDP for the incident that occurred December 4-6, 1985, in which Oleum gas was leaked from one of the Shriram Food and Fertilizers units in the Delhi area and became famous under the name of Oleum Gas Leakage Case. During this incident, one of Tis Hazari's court lawyers died and many others were also affected in large numbers. Hence, an environmental activist, Mr. M.C. Mehta went to the Supreme Court of India and filed a GDP, so that the court can take action on the matter and decide the person's responsibility and liability for the incident.
No matter what damages will be caused due to the defendant's negligence, no matter how the dangerous object escaped, what the reason is but the consequences are to be faced only by the defendant, once proven by the plaintiff side that the damage was caused by the defendant via dangerous object, no excuse will be applicable to it except the case of force majeure. The court ruled that the measure will be taken to finalize the amount of compensation should be in the capacity of the enterprise.
The rule established in this case was approved by the Court in Charan Lal Sahu Vs. Union of India, in which the court found that the defendant has absolute responsibility for the act which he cannot escape by stating that he has taken all reasonable care on your part.
In yet another case of the Indian Council for Environmental Legal Action v. Union of India, the court ruled that "Once the event has been transported in relation to a dangerous substance, then it is liable to take all losses caused to another person regardless of taking reasonable care in the course of the business.
The principle of absolute liability was given more meaning and importance. The Indian Judicial System took some major steps for adopting this principle. These tragedies affect a lot of people, lots of families were destroyed. The court stepped up and gave direction to all the industries which are established near the residential area to take necessary precaution and to take care of lives of people.