‘Can’t Abandon Victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy’, Centre to SC

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The apex court bench noted that a review was not filed then and a curative petition was filed after a gap of 19 years, and asked the victims' counsel, in what capacity they will be heard?

NEW DELHI — The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it is keen to pursue its curative petition seeking enhancement of compensation to Bhopal gas tragedy victims — over the $470 million, which has already been paid by Union Carbide.

Attorney General (AG) R. Venkataramani submitted before a five-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul that it is a tragedy unfolding everyday and victims can’t be abandoned.

Advocate Karuna Nundy, representing the victims, contended that the victims have to be given an opportunity to give a representation before the court comes to a conclusion in the matter and appreciated the AG’s heartening statement.

The AG said there are various challenges in reopening this matter, but we cannot abandon the victims, because the tragedy is unfolding every day. He added that the government wants to proceed and he has gone through considerable literature on the reopening of settlement. The AG said he will be able to place a note. Nundy said first there is the civil aspect, and then there is the criminal aspect and the matter must be investigated.

The Union Carbide Corporation’s counsel questioned the locus standi of NGOs. The bench — also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, A.S. Oka, Vikram Nath, and J.K. Maheshwari — noted that a review was not filed then and a curative petition was filed after a gap of 19 years, and asked the victims’ counsel, in what capacity they will be heard?

The bench, in its order, noted that the AG has taken a stand before the court that the government would like to press its curative petition and a number of NGOs would like to be impleaded, however, counsel for respondent has questioned the maintainability.

The bench said a compilation needs to be prepared by the AG and the company, and it did not allow the counsel representing the victims to file any pleadings. However, the top court clarified that it did not foreclose their rights to be heard by it. The top court has scheduled the hearing after eight weeks and sought a joint compilation by then.

In the previous hearing, senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing the victims, said that over the years, the tragedy’s intensity has increased fivefold — deaths, the number of victims, and the extent of injuries.

On September 20, the Supreme Court asked the Centre’s counsel to get instructions whether it wants to pursue its curative petition seeking enhancement of compensation to Bhopal gas tragedy victims – over the $470 million, which has already been paid by Union Carbide.

In 2011, a five-judge bench of the top court had issued notice to the Union Carbide Corporation, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemicals Co., US. — IANS

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