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Bhopal gas tragedy: Supreme Court dismisses Centre’s plea seeking additional compensation

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed Centre’s plea seeking additional compensation of Rs 7,400 crore from the successor firms of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for the victims of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.

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 firms’ 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.

After hearing detailed arguments, a five-judge bench headed by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had, on January 12, reserved its verdict on Centre’s curative petition seeking an additional Rs 7,844 crore from the successor firms of UCC for extending greater compensation to the victims.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing successor firms of the UCC, submitted before the 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.

During the hearing, Salve also cited several conspiracy theories connected with the case. He said in one of the theories it was claimed the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had met UCC Chairperson Warren Anderson in a hotel in Paris before the settlement, and added that Anderson had by then retired from his post.

The top court had grilled 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 from 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”.

(With inputs from agencies)

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