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Surat gas leak: Bombay High Court grants transit pre-arrest bail to pharma company MD till Feb 1

At least six workers of Vishva Prem Mill died and 23 others fell sick due to the poisonous gas that emanated from a creek after hazardous waste chemicals, allegedly from Hikal Ltd, were discharged from a tanker on January 6.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: January 25, 2022 4:26:55 pm
Bombay High Court, Maharashtra information commissioner Deepak Deshpande, Maharashtra latest news, corruption case, Justice Revati Mohite-Dere, High Court, indian expressBombay High Court (File)

The Bombay High Court last week granted ad-interim transit anticipatory bail till February 1 to Sameer Hiremath, managing director of Navi Mumbai-based pharma company Hikal Ltd, for alleged involvement in discharging hazardous waste into the natural creek at the Sachin GIDC area in Surat, Gujarat, that led to the death of at least six people earlier this month.

The court said that in the event of arrest till February 1, the petitioner be released on bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and surety of like amount so as to enable him to approach the regular appropriate court in Surat to take further steps seeking reliefs. The court added that Hiremath cannot leave India without the permission of an appropriate court.

A division bench of Justice R D Dhanuka and Justice S M Modak on January 21 (Friday) passed an order in Hiremath’s transit anticipatory bail plea in connection with an FIR registered with Sachin GIDC police station, Surat city on January 6.

The FIR mentioned offences punishable under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 284 (negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance), 120B (criminal conspiracy) among others of the IPC and provisions of the Environment Protection Act.

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At least six workers of Vishva Prem Mill (textile dyeing and printing mill) died and at least 23 others fell sick due to the poisonous gas that emenated from a creek after hazardous waste chemicals, allegedly from Hikal Ltd, were discharged from a tanker on January 6.

The Surat Police on January 19 registered an offence against Bharuch-based Sangam Enviro and others in the case. The Surat Special Operations Group (SOG) issued a lookout notice against Hiremath after it could not locate him in Mumbai.

On January 21, senior advocate Amit Desai for Hiremath told the bench that his client apprehended arrest as there was a media report mentioning that the local police were trying to arrest him and that his whereabouts were unknown. Moreover, Desai said that some of the employees of Hiremath’s company were also arrested and their regular bail pleas are pending.

Desai said that the applicant needs two weeks to approach regular court and also assured that till the date of hearing, the staff of Hiremath’s company would cooperate with the police and in future, necessary cooperation would be extended to police.

Advocate P H Gaikwad for state government referred to a news report and submitted that since there was an unnatural death of six persons, no transit bail shall be granted and the high court had no jurisdiction to grant transit bail as the offence is registered outside Maharashtra.

 

After hearing submissions, the bench noted that while the coordinate division bench is yet to decide a reference made by a single-judge bench on whether Bombay HC can grant transit pre-arrest bail in offence registered outside Maharashtra, “the law will take its own course” for the same and “the liberty has to be protected.

In view of FIR and the fact that six persons have died by unnatural death, the bench held: “We are not inclined to grant two weeks’ transit bail for approaching the regular appropriate court. It is true that whether those six persons have died due to inhaling of toxic gas created from the chemical dumped from the tanker belonging to the petitioner or whether it is due to the chemical dropped by a tanker belonging to other persons, it is a matter of investigation. We are inclined to grant time till February 1, 2022 to approach the regular appropriate Court.”

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