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Supreme Court stays NGT order in JSPL Raigarh blast case, directs further deposition of Rs 10 lakh each to victim families

The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the National Green Tribunal’s order in the JSPL Raigarh blast case, which directed that the heirs of the deceased would be entitled to Rs 20 lakh each, and the injured would be entitled to Rs five lakh each, payable by the JSPL within one month.

Proceedings were initiated in the matter suo motu based on a media report in Business Standard dated February 9, 2023, to the effect that two workers died and two were injured on account of a blast at M/s Jindal Steel & Power Limited, Raigarh, Chhattisgarh (JSPL). The incident took place on June 10, 2020.

The Bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice M.M. Sundresh issued notice and directed the appellant to deposit a further amount of Rs 10,00,000 each to the families of the deceased within six weeks, which will be converted into FD for the period of six months, and FDR will be renewed from time to time. 

The Apex Court further directed the Counsel to examine the proceedings under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923.

Appearing for Jindal Steel and Power, Senior Advocate Neeraj Krishan Kaul submitted that the Tribunal took suo motu cognisance after three years of the Business Standard report. 

The Senior Counsel prayed for the stay on NGT order on the grounds that the appellant was paying a monthly salary to the families (Rs 10,000 to one and Rs 7500 to the other), the workmen and their families were happy. He further said that the appellant has already done what he was required to do.

The senior counsel proposed to deposit Rs five lakh. The bench beseeched to know the age of the deceased to which the senior counsel replied the age of the deceased are 52 and 35.

The cause of the accident came out that the internal cleaning of the diesel tank was not done properly, nor was the atmosphere of inert gas (nitrogen) maintained inside the tank where hazardous substances were present. Due to which the increased temperature inside the tank during the gas cutting of the tank created an explosive environment from the fumes of diesel and residual material available inside and the mixer of oxygen available inside, due to which the tank exploded due to the fire.

The NGT coram of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi, Dr. A. Senthil Vel and Dr. Afroz Ahmad had directed the Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health to audit the safety norms adopted by the JSPL unit so that such incidents do not reoccur in the future.

Further, FIR under the Factories Act, 1948 was filed based on the confession and conviction of factory occupiers. The findings of the Labour Court, which conducted a trial for Criminal offence under the Factories Act, 1948 established that the tank exploded due to the heat generated from the gas cutting as an unsecured work system was adopted and personal security equipment was not provided to the labourers/staff. The notice is returnable in the month of September 2023.

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