The Supreme Court on May 19 refused to issue notice in a plea filed by LG Polymers. The petition challenged the order of the NGT on the Vizag Gas Leak. The National Green Tribunal had ordered the company to pay fifty crore rupees and had constituted a fact-finding committee.
The Bench advised the South Korean company to raise questions regarding jurisdiction before the Tribunal itself. Justices U U Lalit, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran stated in the order that the questions raised are purely legal in nature. Thus, LG Polymers has been given leave to raise the questions before the NGT itself before the next hearing. The case will next be heard on 1st June.
The National Green Tribunal had taken suo motu cognizance of the Gas Leak on 8th May. It had issued directions asking LG Polymers to deposit fifty crore rupees with the DM, Vishakhapatnam. Additionally, a five-member Committee had been constituted to investigate the site and submit a report. The committee is headed by Justice B. Seshasayana Reddy, former Andhra Pradesh Judge.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the petitioner, informed the Court that the sum had been paid as ordered. He claimed that it was not their intention to stall the proceedings. Rohatgi submitted that the NGT team had visited the site thrice without prior notice, despite the plant being closed. Accordingly, he raised two questions of law:
1. Whether the NGT can take suo motu cognizance?
2. Whether it is appropriate to have not one, but seven committees on the case?
Advocate Rohatgi was unable to provide details about the Central Government Committee, as the files were not available in the Chambers. However, he asked whether the NGT can take cognizance when proceedings were already started in higher courts. He also contended that the NGT had no jurisdiction to take suo motu cognizance of the case. Justice Lalit informed him that he would have to prove the lack of jurisdiction. The Bench was taken through a High Court’s order. Rohatgi submitted that the order had gone into great detail regarding the jurisdictional clash between the NGT and the HC.
The advocate informed that there had already been a committee instituted by the NHRC. The Pollution Control Board and Environment Ministry had also started inquiries. He submitted that the Court needs to investigate which bodies actually have the power to call for an investigation. Justice Lalit informed the learned Advocate that the HC order had been passed before the NGT order. Thus, he may impress that fact on the Tribunal. The NGT was, however, not aware of these developments. Therefore, it would have been improper for the Court to intervene.