Featured image: Industrial accident for representational purpose. Photo: Needpix/JensonWaldo/Public Domain.
New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has expressed concern over environment relief funds set up for victims of accidents suffered while working with hazardous substances being unused. As of March 2020, the fund amounted to Rs 881 crore.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has directed the Union environment ministry to take necessary action.
According to the Public Liability Insurance (PLI) Act 1991, a relief fund is to be created by the owners of factories where workers handle hazardous substances. If a worker is injured or dies in the course or as a result of handling these substances, the company is to use the money to fund suitable compensation and restitution.
Various establishments around the country deposited their shares of the fund with the United Insurance Company, which in turn amounted to Rs 881 crore in March 2020.
The bench lamented that 29 years have gone by since the enactment of the PLI Act – a “laudable welfare legislation” – and called the underuse of these funds a “travesty of justice”.
Industrial chemical accidents injure or kill workers, so “state pollution control boards and … committees may ensure that industries required to take policies under the PLI Act are not granted consent [under relevant environmental law] until such policy is obtained,” a report in The Hindu quoted the bench as saying.
The bench also issued directions to the National Legal Service Authority and the State Legal Services to take necessary action to support the “victims of injustice to access justice”.
The NGT directions come in the wake of a plea moved by Gyan Prakash, a former Central government employee, who raised concerns about the fund and its use.