Compensation To Victims Sorted Out Substantially: NGT On Baghjan Fire Case

In a latest development in the Baghjan blowout and fire case, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in a hearing on Friday stated that the issue of compensation to the victims has “sorted out substantially” and claims for higher compensation would require “adjudication based on evidence of loss”.

Well number 5 at Baghjan in Tinsukia district, had been spewing gas uncontrollably since May 27 and caught fire on June 9 last year, killing two of OIL’s firefighters.

NGT stated in the report that in spite of claims put forward, a large part of the compensation issue stands resolved in tri-partite arrangement between the victims, the OIL and the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia.

OIL admitting to its liability to 600 families has so far compensated Rs. 15 lakhs each for 161 families and Rs. 10 lakhs each to the 439 families which runs to about Rs. 68 crores. It has also paid Rs. 30,000/- each to 3000 persons i.e. Rs. 9 crores and Rs. 12 lakhs each to 11 families i.e. Rs. 2.2 crores. Further, Rs.50000/- each has been paid to the families who have left the camps to meet the cost of rent, food etc.

According to the OIL, it has spent about Rs. 11 crores on the camps and also incurred expenditure on managing the blowout which is said to be about Rs. 151 cores.

As per the observations made by the committee, payments towards compensation should be “treated as interim”, and that “OIL does not accept any further liability”.

NGT claimed that victims have been compensated “upto a reasonable level”, and the Tribunal “cannot enter into further adjudication in absence of the victims and authentic data”.

“While floor level compensation can be directed to be paid even on some guesswork, higher compensation claims require adjudication, based on evidence of loss,” the NGT said, while, adding, “As already observed, in absence of relevant data, we are unable to determine the claims for higher compensation, beyond the amounts already paid or conceded by the OIL”.

“It is made clear that this order will not debar any victim of the occurrence who is aggrieved by denial of compensation or inadequacy of compensation to take remdies for such claim before any appropriate forum in accordance with law,” the NGT further said.

Meanwhile, the bench said it “prima facie” agrees that Oil India Limited cannot deny their responsibility involved in the fire incident and it cannot disown the blame by pushing it towards the contractor.

Constituting a six-member committee, the NGT said there is need for ensuring that such incidents do not recur.

“We direct this aspect to be gone into by a six-member Committee headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in consultation with the DG Hydrocarbon and DG Mines Safety, DG Oil Industry Safety and PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization), Chief Controller of Explosives, New Delhi within three months,” the bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said on Friday.

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