The Supreme Court has directed the National Green Tribunal to disburse interim compensation within two months to the victims affected by the damage and destruction caused to the biodiversity of Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere Reserve due to a blow-out from the Baghjan 5 Oil Well on May 27, 2020.
The Bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice V Ramasubramanian and Justice J.B. Pardiwala directed the NGT to determine the modalities for disbursement of final compensation, after taking into account the interim compensation fixed in this regard.
The NGT, following the Apex Court order, had constituted three committees.
It had initially formed a 10-member Committee headed by the Chief Secretary, Assam in which the Managing Director of the Oil India Limited had been inducted as a member, to determine the damages and compensation and for the restoration of the National Park and Wetland.
The Tribunal submitted before the Apex Court that this was in breach of the principles of natural justice since the conduct of Oil India Limited was basically in issue and hence, the Managing Director ought not to be a member of the Committee in any case.
This led to reconstitution of the Committee by the top court of the country, which directed the new Committee to make an interim determination of damages and issue suitable directions to Oil India Limited to deposit the amount for facilitating remedial measures.
The Supreme Court-appointed Committee submitted its initial report on October 20, 2021 and final report on December 31, 2021.
The Apex Court, taking in view the fact that other two committees were yet to start work, ordered to remit the proceedings back to the NGT.
It observed that the Tribunal would take up the proceedings on the basis of reports of the expert committee constituted by this Court.
The top court of the country ordered the NGT to hear objections submitted by the parties in the proceedings, before issuing necessary directions on the aspects, including restoration of environment, reparation of environmental damage and compensation.
The other two committees constituted by the NGT shall complete the task assigned to them, it added.
It observed that the pendency of proceedings before the NGT shall not affect the disbursement of interim compensation to the affected villagers.
The Apex Court gave liberty to the Tribunal to pass further directions regarding disbursement of compensation to the affected persons.
(Case title: Bonani Kakkar vs. Oil India Limited & Ors)