Bhopal gas tragedy: SC to hear Centre’s plea in April

New Delhi, Jan 28 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 1/28/2019 12:10:11 PM IST

The Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine in April a curative petition by the government for more compensation to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, over and above the $470 million paid by Union Carbide.

The petition, which came up before a Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said the compensation, determined in 1989, was based on the assumptions of truth unrelated to realities.

In 2011, the Supreme Court 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 reconsideration of the May 4, 1989 and October 3, 1991 orders of the court, contending that the 1989 settlement was seriously impaired. It has sought Rs 7,400 crore in additional funds from the pesticide company.

The tragedy unfolded in Bhopal on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, when the highly dangerous and toxic gas, Methyl Isocyanate, escaped from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL). It resulted in the death of 5,295 humans and injuries to 5,68,292 persons, besides a loss of livestock and property of 5,478 persons.

The court has already dismissed a curative petition filed by the CBI in 2010 for increasing the punishment. The agency had wanted to correct the Supreme Court’s “colossal failure of justice” in 1996 when it chose to dismiss the gas leak as the result of an act of negligence, and not culpable homicide, by former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson and his Indian employees.  

Anderson died in 2014. Dismissing the curative plea in 2011, the court held that “no satisfactory explanation has been given to file such curative petitions after about 14 years from the 1996 judgment.”

As a Bhopal court order sentencing Union Carbide executives to two years in jail sparked public outcry, the CBI moved the Supreme Court and wanted it to “restore” the criminal charge under Section 304 Part II of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against the accused. Those convicted included former Union Carbide India chairman Keshub Mahindra.

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