The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the District Magistrate of Ludhiana, Punjab to ensure that the heirs of the 11 people who died in the recent gas leak tragedy receive payments of Rs 20 lakh apiece.

In order to investigate the claims of hydrogen sulphide leakage, a bench of chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel constituted an eight-person fact-finding joint committee to be led by the chairman of the Punjab State Pollution Control Board.

On April 30, 2023, a gas leak in the Giaspura area of the Ludhiana claimed the lives of 11 people, including three minors, and the tribunal had taken up the case on its own will.

The green bench, which also included expert member Prof A Senthil Veil and judicial member Sudhir Agarwal, pointed out that an article in a newspaper stated that hydrogen sulphide may have led to the tragedy.

The tribunal emphasised that the aforementioned gas could be from industrial waste discharged in the sewerage line.

The tribunal opined that in light of such a report, its intervention was called for under Section 15 of the NGT Act.

"For which it is necessary to ascertain the cause of the incident and remedial action taken and required, including measures to prevent such incidents in future and to compensate the victims by way of adequate compensation," the bench said.

Referring to the principles laid down by Supreme Court inter-alia in M.C. Mehta vs Union of India & Ors., (1987) 1 SCC 395, MCD v Uphaar Tragedy Victims Association, (2011) 14 SCC 481 and Sarla Verma, (2009) 6 SCC 12, the tribunal observed that the state has to pay compensation in absence of identified private operators with liberty to recover the same from persons found responsible.

"The state is under obligation to ensure compliance of environmental norms for safety of citizens. The compensation has to be paid within one month. Reference is made to several other cases where same view has been taken," the tribunal said while referring to the judgment in re: Gas Leak at LG Polymers
hemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh (2020).

The panel has ordered the fact-finding committee to submit its report by June 30, and the matter will be considered by the tribunal again on July 13.