Sunday, December 10, 2023

Bhopal gas tragedy: Supreme Court seeks Centre’s stand on additional compensation to victims

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The Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench on Tuesday scheduled the hearing of the petition pertaining to compensation for victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy for October 11 and requested the Centre’s position on the matter.

A Constitution Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul questioned the Central Government on its position on a curative petition filed by the previous administration in 2010. The curative petition requested approximately Rs 7,400 crore in extra payments from Union Carbide Corporation successor corporations, currently held by Dow Chemicals, for compensating victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas disaster.

Justices Sanjiv Khanna, AS Oka, Vikram Nath, and JK Maheshwari made up the five-judge panel.

The issue was scheduled for hearing on October 11 before the bench.

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre said that he has to take instructions from the government.

“Counsel would like to obtain instructions as to the stand of the government, as the said petition has been moved by them. List on October 11,” said the bench.

The Centre’s curative plea for enhanced compensation for the victims sought a direction to Union Carbide and other firms for over Rs 7,400 crore additional amount over and above the earlier settlement amount of USD 470 million for paying compensation to the gas tragedy victims.

The government requested a re-examination of the Supreme Court’s February 14, 1989 decision, which set compensation at USD 470 million, claiming that the 1989 settlement was adversely harmed.

The Central Government said that the 1989 compensation was established on the basis of factual assumptions that were unconnected to reality.

The Bhopal gas catastrophe, dubbed the world’s worst industrial accident, killed thousands after a poisonous gas spilled from the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide facility on the night of December 2 and 3, 1984.

The disaster unfolded in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, when a harmful and poisonous gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), escaped from Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), killing 5,295 people, injuring over 5,68,292 others, and destroying almost 5,478 people’s property.

The Supreme Court had denied a curative appeal filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2010 seeking increased punishment. The agency had petitioned the Supreme Court in response to public outrage over a Bhopal court judgement that sentenced Union Carbide officials to two years in jail. Keshub Mahindra, the former chairman of Union Carbide India, was among those convicted.

Dismissing the CBI’s curative plea in 2011, the top court had held that “no satisfactory explanation has been given to file such curative petitions after about 14 years from the 1996 judgment”.


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