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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Union government to clarify its stand on whether it wants to go ahead with its curative petition, filed in 2010, seeking additional compensation of Rs 7,844 crore from the successor firms of the US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice S.K. Kaul said that it cannot proceed without having the Union government’s stand in the matter.
“We have to see there has to be quietus in the matter. The government will have to take a stand whether it is going to press the curative petition or not,” it said.
Advocate Karuna Nundy, appearing for the victims, submitted the court should hear the affected parties irrespective of the government’s decision.
Senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, also a counsel for the victims, said the number of people affected has increased five times and the hearing in this case should commence.
However, the apex court wondered if the compensation amount could keep changing over time like that.
“Can it be said [if] something happened five years, 10 years later? Any system must provide for certainty. There cannot be perpetual uncertainty. There is no ideal situation for anything,” the bench said while deferring the matter.
The UCC, now owned by Dow Chemicals, gave a compensation of $470 million (Rs 715 crore at the time of settlement in 1989) after the toxic Methyl Isocynate (MIC) gas leak from the Union Carbide factory on the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984 killed over 3,000 people and maimed more than 500,000 people.
The case will be next heard on October 11.
Meanwhile, five organisations, who have been fighting for the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy, have condemned the Union government for failing to prepare for the curative petition hearing in the apex court.
In a press statement, they have demanded that the Union government ensures that the actual damage caused by the disaster is factually represented before the top court on the next date of hearing.
Nousheen Khan of Children Against Dow-Carbide expressed concern over the fact that the government’s curative petition does not even mention the health damage to an entire generation born after the disaster.
“Since the petition was submitted, no Indian government has filed a single additional argument to protect the legal rights of half a million Bhopal survivors. This government must show that it does in fact care about half a million of its most vulnerable citizens,” said Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.
“We hope that the government uses the time to correct the figures of death and extent of injury caused by the disaster so that the judges are not misled about the actual damage caused by the disaster,” said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nisrashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha said, “We are co-petitioners in this matter with the Indian government. Despite our meagre resources, our lawyer was there in the court, prepared with facts and arguments for compensation of Rs 646 billion from Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals. What’s stopping the government from providing timely instructions to its lawyer?”
(With PTI inputs)