The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed 30 employees of LG Polymers India Ltd to supervise "round-the-clock safety measures" at its sealed plant in Visakhapatnam, where a gas leak early this month killed 12 people.
A bench comprising Justices U.U. Lalit, M.M. Shantanagoudar and Vineet Saran was hearing an appeal of the LG Polymers against the Andhra Pradesh High Court, which directed that nobody, including the directors of the company, should be allowed inside the premises and that it should be completely seized.
The High Court had allowed only the members of the committees appointed by the state government. It had also asked the directors of the company not to leave the country without its permission.
"We permit the petitioner to give a list of 30 personnel as discussed. Upon such names being given to the District Collector, those persons shall be afforded access to the plant round-the-clock to maintain adequate safety measures", said the top court.
The bench said the ad interim direction will continue till the High Court considers the matter. "The High Court may, thereafter, pass appropriate directions", added the bench.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the LG Polymer, submitted that a complete seizure or sealing of plant/ premises will have tremendous adverse consequences. Rohatgi submitted that the temperature of the plant cannot be allowed to go beyond 25 degree Celsius. If, because of lack of adequate attention or safety measures, the temperature goes beyond 25 degree Celsius, the situation can have some ill-effects.
"At least 28 technical personnel and two administrative officials/in-charge must be given emergency access to the plant/premises at any given point of time so that adequate safety measures are undertaken round the clock", added Rohatgi.
It was further submitted that at the intermediate stages of manufacture, the polymers that the company manufactures can have toxic effects, and therefore adequate safety measures have to be undertaken every time. He further submitted that the premises in question also house the administrative and law offices of the company and in case the entire premises are seized/sealed, the operation of the company will stand seriously prejudiced.
"Though, prima facie, we see force in the submissions, considering the fact that the compliance report was directed to be filed by May 26 and the matters may be taken up on May 27 & May 28, we give liberty to the petitioner to place all these issues and aspects for consideration by the High Court", said the top court.
Rohtagi submitted that inspections to be carried pursuant to the directions issued by the High Court must be in the presence of officials of the company so that adequate assistance, as well as complete knowledge about the processes undertaken by the petitioner, could be highlighted.