Bhopal gas tragedy: SC dismisses plea for additional compensation to victims

The Supreme Court said that the sum of "Rs 50 crores lying with RBI" should be used by the Centre to address the needs of the claimants in the Bhopal gas tragedy.

India: Court rejects extra redress for Bhopal gas victims
India: Court rejects extra redress for Bhopal gas victims

NH National Bureau

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the Centre's 2010 curative appeal, which asked the Union Carbide Company (UCC) to pay the victims of the 1984 Bhopal petrol tragedy an additional Rs 7,000 crore in compensation.

A Constitution bench made up of Justices S K Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, A S Oka, Vikram Nath, and J K Maheshwari described the events leading up to the Supreme Court's decision on the case's review petitions on July 19, 2004.

The amount of the settlement was "admitted...that it was deemed to be in excess of the real requirement," and as a result, the claimants had received "compensation that was greater than what was fairly granted to them under the law," the bench said.

This "reinforces the argument that the settlement amount was sufficient to compensate the plaintiffs," the bench stated.

The court emphasised the need for resolution, stating that failure to do so would risk opening a Pandora's box in UCC's favour and to the harm of the beneficiaries.

The SC objected to the Centre submitting the curative petition once more and stated that the Union had submitted the current curative petition in an effort to reopen the settlement after rebuffing private parties' efforts to do so.

It continued, "The Union of India, as a welfare state, was charged with making up the shortfall and obtaining the necessary insurance coverage. Strangely, we learn that no such insurance coverage was purchased. This is egregious carelessness on the part of the Union of India and a violation of the guidelines established by the review judgement.

In circumstances when a settlement is tainted by fraud, the court ruled that it must either be valid or be thrown out. Yet "the Union of India has not alleged any such fraud. Their one and only complaint concerns a number of victims who suffered injuries that were not anticipated at the time the settlement was reached.

The bench declared, "It was clear that hospital facilities would need to be expanded to accommodate those undergoing rehabilitation, and environmental deterioration was unavoidable. In actuality, Union and State were accused of worsening the issue by failing to proactively cleanse or recommission the property, according to UCC. As a swift settlement must be obtained in the sweets case, this cannot be a justification for seeking the compromise's annulment.

According to the decision, the Attorney General's argument was that Article 142 of the Indian Constitution should be used to determine how to top off the settlement sums.

"We don't think this would be the right course of action," it read. "We are equally concerned with the Union of India's inability to provide any justification for resurrecting this relevant matter more than two decades after the tragedy," the statement continued.

Even if the number of impacted people ended up being higher than anticipated, the court stated, "A surplus quantity of cash remain available to pay such claims. In fact, the Welfare Commissioner found in the ruling dated January 31, 2009, that after accounting for pro-rata compensation, the victims had received roughly six times as much compensation as had been awarded in motor vehicle accident cases."

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines