Organisations working for the survivors of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal have reacted strongly and condemned the central government for not preparing a petition seeking more compensation from Union Carbide or its successor company for damages done to Bhopal and its people in the 1984 tragedy. The case was heard in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The petition filed in 2010 had come up for hearing in Supreme Court for the first time in 12 years. Following the request of the Solicitor General for more time to get instructions from the centre on the petition, a five-member Constitution bench deferred the hearing in the case to October 11.
The organisations demanded that the government use the three weeks till the next hearing to ensure that the actual damage caused by the disaster is factually represented before the five-judge bench.
“The Solicitor General informed the five judges in the Supreme Court today that he is still waiting for instructions from the government. In the 11 years since the petition was submitted, no government has yet filed a single additional argument to protect the legal rights of half a million Bhopal survivors. This government must show that it does in fact care about half a million of its most vulnerable citizens,” said Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.
Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nisrashrit Pensionbhogi Sangharsh Morcha said they are the co-petitioners. “…Despite our meagre resources, our lawyer was there in court prepared with facts and arguments for compensation…from Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. What is stopping the government from providing timely instructions to its lawyer?” said Balkrishna Namdeo.
Through the curative plea in 2010, the government sought a reconsideration of the May 1989 judgment and a 1991 order of the Supreme Court, arguing that the 1989 settlement was grossly inadequate.
It sought additional funds of over Rs 7,400 crore from Union Carbide, which was held accountable for the loss of more than 5,000 lives on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 when the highly dangerous and toxic gas, methyl isocynate, leaked from the Bhopal plant.