Pointing to his role as an advocate representing the Centre in the case, Justice S Ravindra Bhat of the Supreme Court, on Tuesday (January 28), recused himself from hearing the Union government’s plea seeking ₹7,844 crore as additional fund from successor firms of US-based Union Carbide Corporation for giving compensation to the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy victims.
Expressing his unwillingness to be part of the bench to hear the matter, Justice Bhat said, “I had appeared for the union of India in the matter when union had sought review”.
A five-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra adjourned the hearing till Wednesday and said Chief Justice of India SA Bobde would take a call on composition of the bench to hear the matter.
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“We will not take it up today. We are waiting for CJI’s order,” said the bench also comprising justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and Bhat.
The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), now owned by Dow Chemicals, gave a compensation of USD 470 million (₹715 crore at the time of settlement) after the toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide factory on the intervening night of December 2 and 3, 1984 killed over 3,000 people and affected 1.02 lakh more.
The bench was scheduled to hear the curative petition filed by the Centre seeking a direction to Union Carbide and other firms for ₹7844 crore for additional funds over and above the earlier settlement amount of USD 470 million in 1989 for paying compensation to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims.
Over 3,000 people had died in the tragedy due to release of methyl isocyanate gas.
At the outset, when the bench assembled, Justice Mishra said that Justice Bhat has a difficulty in hearing the matter.
“Let’s wait till evening today. Let us wait for the CJI’s order on whether we will hear it in some other combination. We will get to know,” Justice Mishra said.
The bench asked the parties to come on Wednesday before it at 10.30 am.
The survivors of the 1984 tragedy have been fighting for long for adequate compensation and proper medical treatment for ailments caused by the toxic leak.
The Centre had filed the curative petition in the apex court in December 2010 for enhanced compensation.
On June 7, 2010, a Bhopal court had convicted seven executives of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) to two years’ imprisonment in connection with the incident.
Then UCC chairman Warren Anderson was the prime accused in the case but did not appear for the trial. On February 1, 1992, the Bhopal CJM court had declared him an absconder.
The courts in Bhopal had issued non-bailable warrants against Anderson twice — in 1992 and 2009.
Anderson died in September 2014.
(With inputs from agencies)