July 1, 2021 10:05:33 pm
The Supreme Court Thursday stayed a National Green Tribunal order finalising the compensation determined by a panel of experts for the blowout of Indian Oil Ltd’s Baghjan well in Assam last year. The petitioners raised questions of conflict of interest as the Managing Director of Oil India (OIL) was a member of the committee appointed by the NGT to determine compensation.
“We are surprised by this order. Being the National Green Tribunal, it must have some alacrity and concern for the environment,” a bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and MR Shah observed.
The blowout—an uncontrollable release of natural gas—took place at well number 5 in the Baghjan oilfield, close to the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and the Maguri-Motapung wetland, on May 27 last year.
The Supreme Court Thursday issued a notice to OIL and said in its order that “there shall be a stay of the operation of the impugned judgment and order of the NGT”.
“It has been submitted that this will be in breach of the principles of natural justice since the conduct of Oil India Limited is basically in issue and, hence, the Managing Director ought not to be a member of the Committee in any case,” the court order recorded.
It took OIL nearly six months to put out the blowout. The expert panel fixed compensation of Rs 25 lakh to 173 families affected by the blowout and the fire and Rs 20 lakh to 439 families who were less affected. As per an earlier statement from OIL, the company had released Rs 36.90 crore in compensation.
In an order on 24 June 2020, the Tribunal constituted a committee of experts following the damage and destruction caused to the biodiversity of Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Biosphere Reserve due to the blowout. In February, the NGT signed off on the expert panel’s recommendations and disposed of the case. The MD of Oil India was, however, a member in the ten-member committee headed by Assam’s Chief Secretary to determine damages and fix compensation for the restoration of the National Park and wetland.
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