Bhopal gas tragedy: SC to hear Centre’s plea for additional fund on Wednesday

The Supreme Court Tuesday adjourned for Wednesday the hearing on Centre’s plea, seeking Rs 7,844 crore as additional fund from successor firms of US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for giving compensation to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, after one of the judges offered to recuse himself from dealing with the issue.
The matter came up for hearing before a five-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra who said that Justice S Ravindra Bhat has “some difficulty” in hearing the matter.
Expressing his unwillingness to be part of the bench to hear the matter, Justice Bhat said, “I had appeared for the Union of India in the matter when Union had sought review.” The bench, also comprising justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran and M R Shah, said that Chief Justice of India S A Bobde would take a call on the composition of the bench to hear the matter.
“We will not take it up today. We are waiting for CJI’s order,” the bench said, adding, “He (Justice Bhat) has some difficulty. Let us wait till evening today”.
The counsel appearing in the matter told the bench that they have no difficulty if Justice Bhat would be part of the bench.
However, as per list of business for Wednesday, which was uploaded on the apex court’s website, the matter has been listed for hearing before the same bench.
The UCC, now owned by Dow Chemicals, gave a compensation of USD 470 million (Rs 715 crore at the time of settlement in 1989) after the toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide factory on the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984 killed over 3,000 people and affected 1.02 lakh more.
The bench was scheduled to hear the curative petition filed by the Centre seeking a direction to Union Carbide and other firms for Rs 7,844 crore for additional funds over and above the earlier settlement amount of USD 470 million for paying compensation to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims.
Over 3,000 people had died in the tragedy due to release of methyl isocyanate gas.
At the outset, when the bench assembled, Justice Mishra said that Justice Bhat has a difficulty in hearing the matter.
“Let’s wait till evening today. Let us wait for the CJI’s order on whether we will hear it in some other combination. We will get to know,” Justice Mishra said.
The bench asked the parties to come on Wednesday before it at 10.30 am.
The survivors of the 1984 tragedy have been fighting for long for adequate compensation and proper medical treatment for ailments caused by the toxic leak.
The Centre had filed the curative petition in the apex court in December 2010 for enhanced compensation.
On June 7, 2010, a Bhopal court had convicted seven executives of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) to two years’ imprisonment in connection with the incident.
The then UCC chairman Warren Anderson was the prime accused in the case but did not appear for the trial. On February 1, 1992, the Bhopal CJM court had declared him an absconder.
The courts in Bhopal had issued non-bailable warrants against Anderson twice – in 1992 and 2009.
Anderson died in September 2014.