The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to entertain a curative petition filed by the Centre demanding an additional compensation of Rs 7,400 crore from the successor firms of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for the victims of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the Centre’s plea is not maintainable in law and it also lacked merits on the facts of this case.
The bench said the Centre’s claim for a top-up on compensation for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims has no foundation and added that either settlement is valid or set aside where it is vitiated by fraud.
“No such fraud has been impleaded by the Union of India and their only contention relates to number of victims and injuries…,” noted the bench, dismissing the Centre’s plea.
The bench added that the responsibility was on the Union of India to make good the deficiency in the compensation and the failure to take insurance policies is gross negligence on the part of the Centre. A detailed judgment in the matter will be uploaded later in the day.
On January 12, the top court had reserved its verdict on the Centre’s curative petition, seeking an additional Rs 7,400 crore from the successor firms of UCC for extending greater compensation to the victims.
During the hearing, the successor firms of the UCC had told the Supreme Court that the Indian government never suggested at the time of settlement (of 1989) that it was inadequate. The firm’s counsel emphasized that depreciation of the rupee since 1989, cannot become a ground to seek a top-up of compensation now for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing successor firms of the UCC, submitted before a bench — also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, Abhay S. Oka, Vikram Nath, and J.K. Maheshwari — that there are affidavits starting from 1995 and ending as late as 2011, where the Indian government has opposed every single attempt to suggest that the settlement is inadequate.
The top court had grilled the Attorney General R. Venkataramani, representing the Centre, on how the government could file a curative petition without filing the review. It told the AG that the central government was not prohibited from granting relief to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, and it cannot absolve itself from the welfare state principle saying, “I will take it from them (successor firms of Union Carbide Corporation), as and when taken from them, I will pay…”