The Supreme Court on Monday said it will re-constitute a panel to assess the environmental damage caused following a massive fire at OIL’s Baghjan oil well in Assam’s Tinsukia district.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said, “We will reconstitute the committee and it will be headed by Justice B.P. Katakey. Oil India cannot be a judge in its own cause. We will delete the names of representatives of Oil India and instead incorporate some experts.”
The bench added that the experts will assess the damage and providing remedial compensation due to the loss which has been caused to the environment, including the loss of biodiversity, as a result of the blowout which took place at the OIL’s oil field.
The top court asked Centre’s counsel to examine the suggestions given by petitioners on the names of experts.
“The court has been apprised of the fact that four out of six experts who have been suggested by the petitioner are conversant with the subject matter, having been associated with the work of the Committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal, headed by Justice B.P. Katakey,” said the top court in its order, and listed the matter for August 26.
The petitioner, Bonani Kakkar, placed suggestions before the top court in regard to expert members who should be associated with the work of assessing the damage and providing remedial compensation on account of the loss which has been caused to the environment, including the loss of biodiversity, as a result of the blowout.
Well number 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district had caught fire on June 9 last year, killing two OIL firefighters at the site.
Senior advocate Siddharth Mitra, representing the petitioner, contended that no funds have been given for the restoration of the environment after the incident.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi opposed this line of argument and added: “sweeping statements” are being made without taking into account the funds already sanctioned.
The top court said it will ask the Ministry of Environment and Forests to appoint a nodal officer to provide funds and make travel arrangements for the members of the committee and other things.
On July 1, the Supreme Court had said it was disappointed with the NGT order on setting up a 10-member committee, which included an Oil India official, to examine the damage, caused by fire, to biodiversity, and stayed the NGT order.