All well after blow-out: Oil India

Vol 25, PW 12 (19 May 22) News in Brief

Oil India is scrambling to pre-empt the damning findings of a judge-led inquiry into its devastating BGN-5 well blowout in May 2020 by insisting that the affected area in the Tinsukia district of Assam is returning to normal.

On May 10 (2020), Oil India submitted a 674-page affidavit to the Supreme Court, including 32 annexures of supporting testimony and evidence. One of the annexures mentions "the sighting of the Mandarin Duck after 118 years," while another cites "photographs of migratory birds and wild animals from December 2021 to February 2022 seen at (affected areas) Maguri Motapung Wetland and the Dibru Saikhowa National Park."

Other annexures include reports from water, fisheries, pollution, agriculture NGOs and state government organisations supporting Oil India's contention that life has returned to normal. Filed by Delhi-based firm Trust Legal, the Oil India affidavit states: "It is humbly submitted that there has been a gross suppression of material facts in the instant civil appeal about the steps and efforts taken by the answering respondent (Oil India) pursuant to the blowout at Baghjan Well No 5."

Under pressure, Oil India filed its affidavit a day before the next hearing of a civil case it's fighting against Kolkata-based environmental activist Bonani Kakkar on May 11 (2022). During the hearing, a three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Sanjiv Khanna and Surya Kant decreed a sealed report prepared by the former Gauhati High Court judge Justice BP Katakey would be made public for all to see at the next hearing on August 2 (2022).

"Oil India has submitted this affidavit because Justice Katakey's report will be critical," says an Assam-based environmental activist. "Oil India's affidavit says everything is back to normal in Baghjan."