A group of Bhopal gas tragedy victims has returned to the Supreme Court to seek a promise the country’s highest court made them 21 years ago.
Their petition quotes the Supreme Court’s assurance given in the Union Carbide v. Union of India verdict of 1989 that it “will leave no stone unturned in undoing any injustice”.
The victims have come to the apex court after the Madhya Pradesh High Court declined to interfere with the Welfare Commissioner’s disinclination to “declare that all gas victims, who are forced to seek medical treatment for gas-related ailments even 25 years after the disaster, are permanently injured and that their compensation should be enhanced accordingly.”
The eight petitioners, led by Abdul Jabbar Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan, claim that “circumstances have changed” and, 26 years after the tragedy, it is time for the Supreme Court to review the compensation doled out to victims as per the Bhopal Settlement struck between the Union of India and Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), USA, under the aegis of the Supreme Court for a sum of $470 million on February 14/15, 1989.
They allege that the “fundamental assumptions” entertained by the apex court about the gas tragedy in the 1989 Bhopal settlement now lie “crucially impaired.”
A special three-judge bench led by former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan on April 23, 2010 agreed to hear the victims once again and issued notice to the Union and the Welfare Commissioner’s office. The fate of the matter now lies in the hands of the present CJI S H Kapadia.
Advocate Aagney Sail, counsel for the petitioners, says that one of the “circumstances” which have changed over the years after the tragedy is the “unjustness of compensation in the event of aggravation of injury” where victims have died after several years.