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Madras HC orders compensation to boys who suffered burns in explosion caused by hazardous wastes

The two Class X boys were playing by throwing stones near a waterbody when some hazardous wastes dumped in the vicinity exploded

January 21, 2023 08:33 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 09:47 am IST - MADURAI

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the State to pay a compensation of ₹10 lakh each to two boys who suffered serious burn injuries in an explosion of hazardous fireworks and match unit wastes dumped near a waterbody in Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district.

One day in 2018, the two Class X students were playing by throwing stones near the waterbody. Suddenly there was an explosion of the hazardous wastes in which they suffered severe burns.

The parents of the boys made a representation to authorities demanding action against the people responsible for dumping the hazardous wastes near the waterbody, and appropriate compensation.

Justice G. R. Swaminathan observed that Sivakasi was a hub of fire industries. The wastes or substances generated from fire industries would qualify as hazardous wastes and they were dumped near the waterbody.

The authorities should have conducted a proper investigation and found out who had dumped the wastes there. The local bodies were tasked with the statutory duty to take care of public health and safety. If there was anything noxious, toxic or capable of causing nuisance or danger, the local body should remove it.

The site where the garbage was dumped belonged to the local body. It had the statutory duty to monitor proper disposal of hazardous wastes. However, the duty was not confined to the local body alone. It basically rested with the government. Article 21 of the Constitution guaranteed the right to life and liberty, and the government was under a constitutional obligation to ensure the general safety of the citizens, the judge observed.

They were matters in which the principle of absolute liability had to be applied. The authorities had miserably failed to monitor the manner of the waste disposal. The negligence on the part of the authorities was responsible for the occurrence. The principle could be invoked not only against industries that breached the provisions relating to environmental laws and human safety but also against the State authorities when they failed to ensure adherence to safety standards.

Granting a compensation of ₹10 lakh each to the boys, the court directed that any specialised treatment, if required by the victims in future, should be provided at any of the State-run hospitals on a preferential basis.

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