SC Agrees To Hear Centre’s Petition Demanding Rs 7,844 Crore Extra Relief For Bhopal Gas Tragedy Victims

Abandoned gas tanks at the erstwhile Union Carbide facility in Bhopal. (Luca Frediani via Wikimedia Commons)

A division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna on Monday (28 January 2019) agreed to hear in April a petition filed by the Centre seeking a further Rs 7,844 crore in damages for Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims from successor firms of Union Carbide, reports Business Standard.

The additional compensation will be on top of the Rs 750 crore settlement, which Union Carbide had paid previously. The curative petition, which was submitted in 2011, also prays for harsher sentences for Union Carbide executives.

Seven senior officials of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) had been convicted in the matter on 7 June 2010 by a Bhopal court and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Among those convicted was UCIL’s parent corporation Union Carbide Company’s chairman at the time, Warren Anderson. Anderson was not present at the trial and was proclaimed an absconder.

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The petition asserts that UCIL had complete knowledge of defects and degradation of the safety precaution mechanisms at the Bhopal facility; it contends that the container holding methyl isocyanate gas suffered from serious design issues as well.

“Even the type of stainless steel used in the methyl isocyanate gas storage tanks was substandard. This was seemingly motivated by the desire to increase profits, with reckless disregard to human life, and the need to ensure that Union Carbide retained control even in the restrictive foreign climate existing in India at that point,” the petition states.

The matter stems from the leak of methyl isocyanate gas from a tank at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on 2 December 1984, caused by the alleged closing off of the refrigeration unit sans any safety measures to prevent leakage. The number of dead resulting from the disaster is estimated at over 3,000 while overall 102,000 city dwellers in Bhopal are thought to have been affected.

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