The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 14 March, dismissed a plea seeking additional compensation for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy which killed – as per government records – over 3000 people and affected over 1 lakh people.
The Centre had in 2010 filed a curative plea seeking additional compensation to the tune of ₹7,844 crore from Union Carbide Corporation's successor firms in favour of the affected families. This was in addition to the USD 470 million (Rs 715 crore) it had received from the American company as part of the settlement in 1989.
However, the apex court, while rejecting the petition said that reopening the case will "open a pandora's box" and work against the affected families.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, Abhay S Oka, Vikram Nath and J K Maheshwar had reserved their verdict on 12 January, 2023.
During the hearing, the centre had insisted that the enormity of the damage caused by the incident couldn’t be ascertained properly at the time of settlement in 1989.
However, the UCC’s successor firms said that the government of India had never suggested that the compensation was inadequate at the time of the settlement.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, advocating for the UCC’s successor firms, had submitted that:
"There are series and series of affidavits starting from 1995 and ending as late as 2011, where the Union of India has opposed every single attempt to suggest that the settlement (of 1989) is inadequate. Affidavits upon affidavits were filed."
He further contended that the actual argument before the court is that compensation is adequate because the rupee’s value depreciated.
"We have been duped by everyone. We received 25 thousand as compensation, another 25 thousand as the interest of the money deposited in the Reserve Bank of money but the government counts it as compensation. Rest all vanished into thin air. You tell me what is the cost of the life? Is it 50 thousand rupees?," said the victim of the gas tragedy.
Another victim of the gas tragedy, Hari Bai said that they expected the Supreme court to do something in the favour of gas tragedy survivors.
She said, "We were hoping that the supreme court will do something in our favour because the governments have failed us, the company put this on us. We don't even have access to good medical care. The hospitals dedicated to survivors do not have doctors, machinery, the entire system is in a pathetic state. Who should we turn to?"