Justice Bhat recuses from hearing on Bhopal gas tragedy

Justice Bhat recuses from SC's 5-judge bench in Bhopal gas tragedy case

Justice Bhat was a counsel for Indian government in settling the amount in 1989

Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster burn an effigy representing Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals companies during a protest on the occasion the 34th anniversary of the tragedy, in Bhopal, Monday, Dec 3, 2018. (PTI Photo)

A Supreme Court judge, Justice S Ravindra Bhat on Tuesday recused a curative petition filed by the Centre in 2010 for direction to the Union Carbide Corporation to pay enhanced compensation of over Rs 7,400 crore to the victims in the Bhopal gas tragedy case.

Justice Bhat was a counsel for Indian government in settling the amount in 1989. He was sitting in a five judge bench presided over by Justice Arun Mishra.

The matter was posted for consideration before the bench, also comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, and M R Shah.

The tragedy following the leak of methyl isocyanate at a plant of Union Carbide India Ltd in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984 had officially claimed lives of 5,295 people and left over 5 lakh afflicted with deadly diseases.

The Centre had in December 2010 filed the curative petition in the apex court seeking an order to the UCC for enhancing the settlement amount and reimbursement amount of Rs 7413 crore.

It had sought reconsideration of the top court's February 14, 1989 judgement which had fixed a compensation of just Rs 750 crore.

The petition, which claimed earlier compensation amount was based on misconception on the number of deaths, injuries and losses, and disregard to environmental damages, has been pending for quite long for consideration.

It had named US chemical giant Dow Chemical that acquired the UCC in 2001, as the main party. Various victims' groups including Bhopal Gas Peedith Stationery Mahila Karamchari Sangh, Bhopal Group for Information and Action and Children against Dow Carbide were allowed to be impleaded in the matter.

The UCC, for its part, contended that in 1985 a scheme was framed under the Bhopal Act by which all disputes relating to claims by individuals were to be resolved through quasi-judicial proceedings.