Bhopal Gas Tragedy: NGOs Upset Over Apex Court RulingMar 20, 2023 | Pratirodh Bureau
Voluntary organisations fighting for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy have expressed displeasure over the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the Centre’s curative plea seeking an additional Rs 7,844 crore from the Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) successor firms and demanded that the government compensate them adequately.
The apex court last week dismissed the Centre’s curative plea seeking an additional Rs 7,844 crore from the UCC’s successor firms to extend higher compensation to the victims of the gas tragedy that killed more than 3,000 people, maimed thousands of others, and caused irreversible environmental damage.
The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) representing the victims are also mulling filing claims of the second generation of survivors in competent courts.
“We strongly condemn the March 14 decision on the curative petition on several counts and we will now demand from the government to compensate the victims with additional relief, which it had sought in the Supreme Court,” Bhopal Group for Information and Action’s Rachna Dhingra told PTI.
She said the organisation was also mulling over filing claims on behalf of the second generation of survivors in competent courts to seek justice for them.
The judges have displayed “ignorance” about the basic fact that contamination of groundwater in Bhopal by the UCC’s hazardous waste predates the 1984 gas disaster and is unrelated to it, she claimed.
“They chose to ignore that the ongoing contamination is due to unsafe dumping of poisonous waste before and after the disaster by the UCC. Also ignored by them was the condition of returning the land in its original state, under which the company had taken the land on lease,” Dhingra alleged.
Rashida Bee, president, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said it appeared the Supreme Court ignored arguments that the UCC had used fraudulent means to settle the case on the disaster in February 1989.
“Our lawyer had, in fact, presented documentary evidence of the UCC’s representative misleading Indian government officials into believing that a majority of the survivors suffered only temporary injuries. There is not a word in the decision about this,” Bee said.
The court’s claim that Bhopal survivors received six times more compensation than that provided under the Motor Vehicles Act is “overwhelmingly false”, said Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha.
While delivering the March 14 judgement, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul observed that there was no rationale by the Centre to rake up the issue two decades after the settlement.
The Centre had wanted another Rs 7,844 crore from the UCC’s successor firms over and above the USD 470 million (Rs 715 crore) it got from the American company as part of the settlement in 1989.
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha’s president Nawab Khan said, “Nowhere in the 34-page decision is there any indication that the judges are even remotely familiar with the scientific facts on medical consequences of the exposure to leaked gas.”
There was nothing in the ruling to show the judges had any understanding of the chronic nature of exposure-induced diseases among the Bhopal survivors, he claimed.
Nousheen Khan of the Children against Dow Carbide said the SC was not sympathetic to the survivors despite claiming to be so in the judgement and criticised its attitude towards organisations representing them.
The UCC, now owned by Dow Chemicals, gave a compensation of Rs USD 470 million in 1989 after the toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory on the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984.