The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday posted for October 11 the hearing of the plea relating to the compensation to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy and sought the Centre’s stand on the issue. A Constitution Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked the Central government about its stand on the curative petition filed by the previous government in 2010.
The curative plea sought over Rs 7,400 crore as additional funds from successor firms of US-based Union Carbide Corporation, now owned by Dow Chemicals, for giving compensation to victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy. The five-judge bench comprised Justices Sanjiv Khanna, AS Oka, Vikram Nath and JK Maheshwari.
The bench posted the matter for hearing on October 11. 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 sought a re-examination of the apex court’s February 14, 1989 judgment which had fixed compensation at USD 470 million, contending that the 1989 settlement was seriously impaired. The contention of the Central government was that the compensation, determined in 1989, was arrived at on the basis of assumptions of truth unrelated to realities.
The Bhopal gas tragedy, touted as the world’s worst industrial disaster, had claimed the lives of several thousand people after a deadly gas leaked from the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant on the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984. The tragedy unfolded in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, when the hazardous and toxic gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), escaped from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) and resulted into the death of 5,295 human beings, injuries to almost 5,68,292 persons besides loss of livestock and loss of property of almost 5,478 persons.
The apex court had already dismissed a curative petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2010 for enhancement of punishment. The agency had approached the Supreme Court, facing public outcry over a Bhopal court order that sentenced Union Carbide executives to two years of imprisonment. Those convicted included former Union Carbide India chairman Keshub Mahindra. 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”.