Supreme Court dismissed additional compensation plea for victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy

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On March 14, 2023, a curative petition filed by the Central government was dismissed by the Supreme Court of India. The petition was filed with the motive to claim additional compensation from Union Carbide (now Dow Chemicals) for the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. The Supreme Court said that, “The Union has filed the curative petition seeking to reopen the settlement. The responsibility was placed on the Union of India, being a welfare state, to make good the deficiency, and to take out the relevant insurance policy. Surprisingly, we are informed that no such insurance policy was taken out. This is gross negligence on the part of Union and in breach of the judgment of this court. The Union cannot be negligent on this aspect and then seek a prayer from this Court to fix such responsibility on the UCC.”

The Centre had demanded the reopening of the case and directed Union Carbide to pay an additional compensation of Rs. 7,844 crores. Bhopal Gas Tragedy is among the world's worst industrial disasters that killed over 3,000 people and affected more than lakh people. In 1989, the Union Carbide paid compensation worth Rs. 715 crores to the victims. This time too, the government had argued that the compensation amount should have been calculated efficiently at the time of settlement in 1989.

The matter was presented today before a five-judge Constitutional bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, Vikram Nath, J.K. Maheshwari, S.K. Kaul, and A.S. Oka. Rejecting the petition, the top Court said that the settlement can only be initiated on the basis of fraud whereas the Centre did not argue on this point during the hearing. Moreover, while giving the order, the Supreme Court observed that “We are not satisfied with the Union of India for not furnishing any rationale for ranking up this issue after two decades… We are of the view that curative petitions cannot be entertained.” Also, opined to clear the pending compensation claims with a sum of Rs. 50 Crore lying with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 

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