Andhra Pradesh High Court orders seizure of LG Polymers’ premises, bars directors from leaving India

Andhra Pradesh High Court has ordered the seizure of premises of the South Korean firm LG Polymers located at Visakhapatnam that saw toxic styrene gas leakage killing 12 and affecting hundreds early this month.

The court has also barred the company directors from leaving the country without its permission, while ordering authorities not to release their surrendered passports. The court ordered not to allow anyone to enter into the factory premises including the directors of the company.

The two-member bench of High Court, comprising justices Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Lalitha Kenneganti has ordered not to allow shifting of the company’s assets and machinery, amid reports that the South Korean firm has shifted styrene gas from its premises.

The court also sought to know who had permitted the company to shift the styrene gas from its storage tanks at the factory in Visakhapatnam to South Korea after the accident pending probe.

The two-member bench also ordered a report on the permissions granted to the company to restart operations during the lockdown period.

The Court was dealing with a set of public interest litigations, including a suo moto petition initiated by it, seeking justice to the affected people around the LG Polymers’ factory and action against the company and government officials for the shortcomings.

The court orders have come days after the AP Crime Investigation Department sleuths arresting a 60-year-old lady from Guntur for raising questions through her Facebook posting that were similar to those raised by the petitioners in their PILs. The lady had also questioned why there was no action against the directors of the company, and sought to know who had allowed the company to shift the toxic styrene away to its headquarters.

Amid suspicions being raised by the Opposition parties and civil society bodies over the alleged attempts to destroy the critical evidences at the factory, the High Court has ordered to record the actions by anyone in the factory premises including the committees appointed for probes.

“The Committee, if any, appointed wants to inspect the premises, they are at liberty but they shall put a note on the Register maintained at the gate of the Company regarding the said inspection and while returning, a note regarding the act done in the premises be also noted,” the Court ordered.

The court has observed that “the replies filed by the State Government and Central Government are silent on the issues” that the petitioners had raised in their PILs on the shortcomings and lapses on the part of government agencies.

The issues raised by the petitioners include that LG Polymers was allegedly operating without a valid Environmental Clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change. The inhibitor concentration in the storage tank of LG Polymers was not checked and refrigeration system was not working properly, even as the siren/ alarm system at the factory didn’t function during the gas leakage accident, said petitioners.

The High Court questioned how LG Polymers was permitted to transport Styrene Monomer to South Korea without the permission of the Court or without a magisterial enquiry.





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