SC to hear plea to raise Bhopal gas compensation from Jan. 28

Children affected by the Bhopal gas tragedy at a rally. File

Children affected by the Bhopal gas tragedy at a rally. File   | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

A five-judge constitution bench will hear curative petition filed by the Centre a decade ago

A five-judge Constitution Bench will begin hearing from January 28, a curative petition filed by the government a decade ago for enhancement of compensation to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, over and above the $470 million already paid by Union Carbide.

The Constitution Bench would be led by Justice Arun Mishra and comprise Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat.

In January last year, a Bench led by then Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had agreed to examine the petition.

The government had contended that the compensation,determined in 1989, was arrived at ‘on assumptions of truth unrelated to realities’.

A five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had in 2011 issued notice to the Union Carbide Corporation, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemicals Co., U.S., Dow Chemicals, McLeod Russel India, Kolkata, and Eveready Industries, Kolkata.

The Centre had sought a review of the May 4, 1989, and subsequent October 3, 1991, orders of the Supreme Court, contending that the 1989 settlement was seriously impaired.

The government has sought additional funds of more than ₹7,400 crore from the pesticides maker.

The tragedy unfolded in Bhopal (the capital of Madhya Pradesh State) on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, when the highly dangerous and toxic gas, Methyl Isocyanate (MIC), escaped from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) facility. The industrial accident resulted in the death of 5,295 human beings, caused injuries to almost 5.7 lakh persons, besides loss of livestock and loss of property.

The court had earlier dismissed a curative petition filed by the CBI in 2010 for ‘enhancement of punishment’.

The investigation agency had filed the curative petition to ‘correct’ the “colossal failure of justice” in 1996 when the apex court chose to dismiss the tragedy as a result of an ‘act of negligence’, and not culpable homicide by former Union Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson and his Indian employees. Mr. Anderson died in 2014.

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

The CBI had wanted the Supreme Court to “restore” the criminal charge of Section 304 Part II IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against the accused persons. It had approached the Supreme Court after the government had faced a public outcry over a Bhopal court order that sentenced Union Carbide executives to two years’ imprisonment. Those convicted included former Union Carbide India chairman Keshub Mahindra.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 1:39:32 AM |

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