THE Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the Centre’s curative plea seeking an additional Rs 7,844 crore from the Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) successor firms to extend higher compensation to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy that left over 3,000 people dead and caused environmental damage. The top court also slammed the Centre for not framing an insurance policy for the victims in terms of its undertaking given to the court earlier and termed it as “gross negligence”.
“The responsibility was placed on the Union of India being a welfare state to make up for the deficiency and to take out relevant insurance policies. Surprisingly, we are informed that no such insurance policy was being taken out. This is gross negligence on the part of the Union of India and in breach of the directions issued by this court in review judgement. The Union cannot be negligent on this aspect and then seek a prayer to fix the responsibility on the UCC,” the apex court said. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said there was no rationale by the Centre to rake up the issue two decades after the settlement. The top court said that a sum of Rs 50 crore lying with the RBI for the victims shall be utilised by the Union of India to satisfy pending claims of victims. The bench said the Union of India’s claim for a top up has no foundation of legal principle.
“Either a settlement is valid or it is to be set aside in cases of fraud. No such fraud has been pleaded by the Centre and their only contention relates to a number of injuries and costs that were not contemplated at the time of the settlement.
“It was known that medical facilities would have to be extended to rehabilitate people and there was bound to be environmental degradation. In fact, it is UCC’s allegation that the Union of India and the state did not proactively detoxify the site. In any case, this cannot be a ground to seek annulment of the compromise,” it said.