The Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered the state government to seize the premises of LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam and not to allow the company’s directors to leave the country without the court’s permission, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
The court was hearing three writ petitions and passed the interim orders on Friday, but the written orders were issued only on Sunday, IANS reported. The next hearing is posted for May 28.
On May 7, at least 11 people, including a child, died after toxic gas leaked from the chemical plant of the company. The gas leak occurred at the LG Polymers Plant at RR Venkatapuram near Naiduthota area between 2.30 am and 3 am and spread over a radius of about 3 km, affecting at least five villages. On May 13, a first information report had mentioned the cause of the disaster as “some smoke” and “a bad smell” that endangered life. The Andhra Pradesh government also set up a high-level committee of five members to investigate the incident.
A division bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti in an interim order said that no one, including the company’s directors, should be allowed to enter the premises. The court said that if any committee member wants to inspect the premises, they can do so. However, the members have to make an entry in a register at the company gate about the inspection. They will also have to add a note about the actions taken in the premises during the visit.
The bench also ordered that no assets, movable or immovable, fixture, machinery and contents shall be allowed to be shifted without the court’s permission. It also sought a reply on the net worth of LG Polymers.
The court took serious note of styrene monomer being transported from the plant to South Korea. On May 14, the company said that it had started support measures and begun the transportation of the styrene monomer inventory to South Korea to eliminate all risks factors.
In its order, the court said, “After registration of crime, on appointment of the investigation/inspection team and also when magisterial enquiry was required, why, without appointment of the said panel or permission of the court, Styrene Monomer has been permitted to be transported to South Korea and who is the person responsible for the same?” The bench also directed the central and state governments, other government agencies and the company to submit a compliance report by May 26.
On May 7, the High Court had suo moto taken up the case and passed orders. The state and central government had submitted their action-taken reports by May 20. However, the court said that both the governments were silent on certain issues that had also been raised in two writ petitions filed subsequently.
The court sought explanation from respondents on several issues, including whether LG Polymers had been operating without a valid environmental clearance from the Union Environment, Forests and Climate Change Ministry.