The Supreme Court on 28 January, has recused from hearing the Centre’s plea which sought an additional fund of Rs 7,844 crore from the Union Carbide Corporation (currently owned by Dow Chemical Co), to grant compensation to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
A five-judge bench comprising of Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah, and S Ravindra Bhat adjourned the hearing till 29 January, stating that the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde would compose a bench to hear the matter.
Since Justice Bhat had represented the Centre as a lawyer in the 1989 settlement case, he stated that “I had only appeared for the Union of India in the matter, when the union had sought review. We will not take it up today. We are waiting for CJI’s order,” and has further sought to rescue himself from the five-judge bench.
In December 2010, the Centre had moved the Supreme Court claiming an additional compensation of Rs 7,844 crore for the loss of life, property, and environmental contamination following the tragedy of 1984. Thus, the five-judge bench was to hear the Centre’s curative petition in an open court following the government’s plea.
The incident took place on 2nd and 3rd December of 1984 when a poisonous methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal. As per reports, it is considered one of the world’s worst industrial disasters which lead to the death of around 3,000 people.
The UCC chairman Warren Anderson, who was considered as the prime accused in the case was declared an absconder by the Bhopal judicial magistrate court on 1 February 1992, after he failed to appear for the trial. Later, on 7 June 2010, a Bhopal court convicted seven executives of Union Carbide India to two years’ imprisonment in connection with the incident.
The Union Carbide Corporation gave a compensation of $470 million (Rs 715 crore). However, the survivors of the tragedy have been fighting for adequate compensation and adequate medical treatment for ailments caused by the incident.