NGT directs Indian Oil’s Panipat refinery to pay ₹25 crore

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said the Indian Oil Corporation Limited’s Panipat refinery in Haryana has failed to take effective and adequate steps for pollution control and directed it to submit ₹25 crore for restoration of the environment.

The green panel noted the report filed by a committee which said there was no progress towards restoration of the environment by the refinery.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said a PSU has to be a model for compliance of environmental norms, which, unfortunately, is found lacking in the present case.

It noted that the timelines for compliance were going up to March 2022 to remedy storm water contamination and other long timelines even after two years of directions and monitoring by the tribunal.

The tribunal said the stand of the IOCL showed lack of sensitiveness to the fundamental rights of the inhabitants to clean environment.

“The IOCL is either denying its responsibility or delaying performance of its obligation,” it said.

“IOCL has failed to take effective and adequate steps even during long interval available after the last hearing though such action was expected,” the bench said.

The tribunal directed the IOCL to take initiative on a day-to-day basis and comply with all the observations of the joint committee positively within six months.

“This will not debar the state PCB from initiating prosecution for violation of provision of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 against the company and its senior officers who failed to prevent commission of crime, as per statutory mandate,” the bench said.

While directing the IOCL to pay ₹25 crore, the green panel said the amount deposited can be spent on restoration of environment and public health by making a restoration plan.

“Such plan may be prepared within three months and same may be duly executed. The deposit of the amount by the IOCL may be made within one month from today with the CPCB.

“Issue of final liability for compensation will be decided on next date in the light of progress in performance by IOCL,” the bench said.

The NGT had earlier slapped an interim penalty of ₹ 17.31 crore on Indian Oil Corporation Limited’s Panipat refinery for violation of environmental norms after perusing a report filed by a committee comprising the Central Pollution Control Board and the State pollution control board.

The refinery, however, opposed the report and said it was unwarranted as the impact of other industries in the vicinity had not been considered and it did not get a notice from the committee.

Proceedings in the matter were initiated on receipt of a letter by Satpal Singh, sarpanch, gram panchayat, Singhpura Sithna village, Panipat, alleging that IOCL’s Panipat refinery is creating air and water pollution around Bohli, Dadlana and Sithana villages.

The letter also alleged that air pollution by the refinery has spread diseases, affecting a large number of people, and the analysers to measure carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide etc have been non-functional since 2010, due to which such values are not being recorded.

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