Plea on pipeline blast: Gujarat HC issues notice to ONGC, government authorities

A division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Wednesday issued notices to ONGC, government authorities and administrative bodies in a public interest litigation concerning an ONGC pipeline blast in Kalol, Gandhinagar in December 2020 that had killed three of one family. The PIL has sought that responsibility be fixed of the parties or persons whose acts led to the incident and that the housing societies on such lands be shifted or the ONGC pipelines be re-routed, in view of human safety.

The PIL has been filed by one Viralgiri Goswami, represented by advocates Rahul Sharma and Utkash Dave. As per the PIL, preliminary inquiries following the pipeline blast had shown that one Garden City Cooperative Housing Society was constructed on land under which ONGC pipelines were passing, “which were clearly impermissible under the law,” as per the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act,1962. The petitioner has highlighted that the construction had taken place not only over the land for which non-agricultural (NA) permission and development permission had been obtained but also over land bearing different survey numbers for which no permission was obtained.

The petitioner has submitted that before the Gandhinagar district development officer granted NA permission, it had sought a no-objection certificate from ONGC in 2006. ONGC had granted the required permission stating that “neither any oil/gas pipelines nor any oil/gas GCS of ONGC” are located on the concerned survey numbers of land. Subsequently in 2009, the developer of the property Rajesh Patel, was also granted development permission by the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) for one of the six revenue survey numbered land parcels, over which the society was developed.

“It is significant to note that the fact of the laying of ONGC (pipeline) would have been known to revenue authorities at different levels. Yet, despite the knowledge, no authority ever interfered either when the development work was going on or thereafter,” the petition states.
Goswami has submitted that following the blast a case of accidental death was registered at the Kalol rural police station but no criminal case or FIR was registered against the developer and other authorities, even more than three months after the incident.

The bench of Chief Justice Vikam Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav issued notice to AUDA, Gujarat Real Estate Regulatory Authority, district development officer, ONGC and developer Rajesh Patel, and kept it returnable within four weeks.

The PIL has sought that the state government allot land located at a comparable convenient site for relocating Garden City Cooperative Housing Society and other societies, under the supervision of Gujarat RERA and also to permit the state government to charge any money that it considers due to it from the developer.

Meanwhile, a surviving victim family member also filed a plea seeking that he be made a party to the PIL proceedings, which the court has permitted on Wednesday. The court is expected to hear the matter further on July 7.

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