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How can govt slap additional liability now: SC on 1984 tragedy | India News



NEW DELHI: Afive-judge constitution bench hearing the Centre’s curative petition on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy told the government on Tuesday it could not act differently after accepting a settlement with Union Carbide for several years.
“Two parties wanted to avoid litigation and agreed to settle the issue. Now, under what principle of law you can impose additional liability? We appreciate your concern but to what extent we can go in a curative petition,” the bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna, Abhay S Oka, Vikram Nath and J K Maheshwari told attorney general R Venkataramani who was trying to impress upon the court that it was in larger public interest and to compensate those who suffered in 1984 and subsequent years.
“You acted on a premise for a quarter of a century. Now, you say you want to act differently. No one prohibits the Government of India from taking a proactive step and say that we feel that the people deserve more. Do it, nobody is stopping you. But can you pass it on them (Union Carbide)?” the bench told the AG.
The petition, filed by the Centre, seeks reopening of the case to increase the compensation to increase the liability on the US-based company which had paid $470 million (Rs 715 crore at the time of settlement in 1989) as final settlement.
The Centre on Tuesday continued to face tough questions posed by the Supreme Court for seeking enhancement of compensation from Union Carbide for Bhopal gas tragedy victims. The bench said that in normal cases the curative petition would have been dismissed but it has granted extensive hearing because of the issue involved. The attorney general after arguing for two days concluded his submission and the lawyers appearing for NGOs and private party will argue on Thursday.
The tragedy struck Bhopal on the intervening night of December 2-3,1984 when the highly toxic gas methyl isocynate escaped from the Union Carbide India Limited factory. It resulted in the death of 5,295 people, injuries to almost 5,68,292 people besides loss of livestock and loss of property of almost 5,478 people.


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