National Green Tribunal Current Affairs - 2020

NGT Order of Vizag Gas Tragedy: What is Strict Liability Vs Absolute Liability?

The National Green Tribunal recently passed an order regarding the Vizag Gas Tragedy. Under the order, the LG Polymers, where the gas leak occurred was held liable according to the Principle of “Strict Liability” of 19th century English law.

Strict Liability Principle

According to Strict Liability Principle, a company or a party is not liable and does not require to pay compensation in case hazardous substance leaks out from its premises. The leakage is considered accident. The strict liability evolved in 1868 and provides exemptions from assuming liability.

What is the issue?

In the Vizag Gas tragedy, the NGT has used the term “strict liability”. Legal experts claim that the term “absolute liability” should have been used. The NGT has ruled to deposit an initial amount of Rs 50 crore. It has also formed a fact-finding committee.

What is Absolute Liability?

In 1986, the Supreme Court while ruling Oluem Gas leak held that strict liability was inadequate to protect the citizens. Hence, it replaced with absolute liability. According to absolute liability principle, the supreme court held that a company operating a hazardous industry cannot claim any exemption. The company has to mandatorily pay compensation. The fact that the tragedy was caused by its negligence or not does not matter.

The principle of “Absolute Liability” is considered as part of Article 21 (Right to Life).

National Green Tribunal forms committee to stop illegal groundwater extraction

Expressing concern over depleting groundwater levels, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has set up a committee to formulate steps required to prevent illegal extraction of groundwater.

NGT’s decision was take in response to hearing of a plea filed by a city resident, Shailesh Singh seeking action against depleting groundwater levels in nation and prevention of its illegal extraction.

Key Highlights of Committee

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the committee to evolve a robust mechanism for ensuring that groundwater is not illegally extracted and to monitor manning and functioning of Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA).

Committee may look into the reports already submitted. The report may be furnished within 2 months by e-mail.

Members: Committee comprises of joint secretaries of Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), National Remote Sensing Centre, National Institute of Hydrology (Roorkee) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Nodal agency will be the Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) for coordination and compliance.

Arguments by NGT

The tribunal took to notice that despite a 1996 order of Supreme Court order with regard to groundwater extraction, the water level has only gone down. The SC order had directed central government to constitute a body to look into the issue of groundwater depletion.

However, in spite of clear directions of Supreme Court, the CGWA is unwilling to take the ownership of subject and repeatedly takes the plea that it does not have infrastructure or that the responsibility of dealing with problem is of States and not that of the said authority.

Thus NGT stressed that it is high time that working of CGWA is reviewed and remedial measures are taken, including assessment of suitability of the person to head it. NGT also held that CPCB report that states that water intensive industries can be allowed even in semi-critical and critical areas without any further safeguards may not be acted upon till further orders.