A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will hear on January 28 a curative petition moved by the Centre against the court’s 1989 verdict for a direction to the Union Carbide Corporation, now owned by US major Dow Chemicals, to pay increased compensation to the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.
The Union government has sought enhancement of the compensation from Rs 750 crore fixed by the top court in 1989 to over Rs 7,400 crore.
The matter will be come up before a bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and S Ravindra Bhat.
The tragedy on the night of December 2, 1984 after leakage of highly poisonous methyl isocyanate gas from the the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal had officially claimed the lives of 5,295 people as against the earlier figure of 3,000, according to the petition.
It had affected over 5 lakh people against the previous figure of 70,000.
The Centre had in November 2018 pleaded for early listing of the curative petition which was filed in December 2010.
The apex court had directed in January last year that the matter be taken up in April 2019.
In its petition, the government has sought the enhanced amount of Rs 7,413 crore, saying the previous amount was based on an incorrect number of deaths and injuries. The earlier compensation had also disregarded environmental damages.
The petition has made Dow Chemicals, which was acquired Union Carbide in 2001, as the main respondent.
Various groups like Bhopal Gas Peedith Stationery Mahila Karamchari Sangh, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Children against Dow Carbide were earlier allowed to be impleaded in the case.
Warren Anderson, who was the chairman of Union Carbide when the tragedy occurred, was named as the prime accused in the case. He, however, was declared an “absconder’ since he failed to appear in the trial. Anderson died in 2014.
A court in Bhopal had in 2010 sentenced seven persons to two years in prison.
The Centre’s curative petition has also sought stricter punishment for the convicts, saying that they had full knowledge of the design flaws of the plant, including the complete lack of any emergency remedial facilities in case of a runaway reaction of the methyl isocyanate stored.
Curative petitions are generally heard in chambers, but the apex court had last year decided to take up the government’s plea in open court.