The Supreme Court on January 23 directed the NGT i.e., the National Green Tribunal to disburse the interim compensation within a period of two months with regard to the Baghjan Oil Well blowout case.

The Court has issued directions in view of the damage and destruction caused to the biodiversity of Dibru Saikhowa National Park and Boisphere Reserve due to such a fire tragedy.

The three-Judge Bench comprising CJI D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice V Ramasubramanian, and Justice J.B. Pardiwala said, “NGT is at liberty to issue appropriate directions for determining the modalities for the adjudication of final compensation and its disbursement, after taking due account of the interim compensation which has been fixed in that regard. The disbursement of the interim compensation should be effected expeditiously and within a period of two months from the date of this order.”

The Bench kept open all the rights and contentions of the parties involved in the case.

Advocate Shruti Agarwal appeared on behalf of the appellant while Senior Advocate Parag Tripathi and Advocate Abhishek Atrey represented the respondents.

In this case, Oil India Limited was in control and possession of the Baghjan Oil well. The NGT constituted a Committee of experts and after the submission of a progress report by the Committee, it constituted three committees by the impugned order.

The Apex Court reconstituted the third committee constituted by the NGT and directed that the committee shall make an interim determination of the damages upon which suitable directions could be issued to the respondent company for depositing the amount for facilitating the remedial measures. The final report of the committee was thereafter submitted.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case observed, “The Court is apprised of the fact that the other two committees are yet to commence their work in view of the stay granted by this Court on 1 July 2021. The petitioner has no grievance in regard to the constitution of the other two committees.”

The Court further observed that it would be appropriate to remit the proceedings back to the NGT which shall take up the proceedings based on the reports of the expert committee which was constituted by the Court.

“The reports of the expert committee shall be considered by the NGT. The NGT shall hear such objections as the parties in the proceedings have, before issuing necessary directions on the aspects including restoration of the environment, reparation of environmental damage and compensation”, the Court asserted.

It was further directed by the Court that the other two committees, which have been constituted by the NGT, shall proceed to complete the task which has been assigned to them.

“In terms of the earlier directions, it is clarified that the pendency of the proceedings before the NGT shall not affect the disbursement of interim compensation to the affected villagers. The NGT shall, it is clarified, be at liberty to pass further directions in regard to assessing the compensation payable and for its disbursement to all the affected persons”, the Court noted.

The Court further noted that the order of the NGT shall stand modified to the extent of the constitution of the third committee.

The Court also said, “The NGT shall proceed ahead on the basis of the report of the expert committee appointed by this Court, without awaiting the conclusion of the proceedings before the two other committees.”

Accordingly, the Court issued appropriate directions to the NGT.

Cause Title- Bonani Kakkar v. Oil India Limited & Ors.

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