The Delhi High Court has decided to examine the need for putting in place a legal regime for speedy relief and adequate compensation for victims of man-made disasters.
The decision comes at a time when the mild punishment given to Bhopal gas disaster convicts has turned focus on the Nuclear Liability Damages Bill, which is pending in Parliament.
The move came in a writ petition filed on behalf of two scrap dealers on Friday. The dealers were seriously affected due to unsafe disposal of radioactive material by the Delhi University in Mayapuri market.
The victims have refused the compensation of Rs two lakh each as they consider it ‘meager’ given the medical expenses they have already incurred and are likely to incur in future.
Justice S Muralidhar issued notice to Department of Atomic Energy, under the Central Government, and the Delhi University stating that the "petition raised questions of law of importance and the court proposed to examine the issues." They are to submit their response by August 30.
"It appears that at present there is no act which recognises the exposure of radioactive material, the strict liability principle and provides for a remedy to a victim. The Parliament is yet to enact into law the Nuclear Liability Damages Bill," the court said. The petitioners pointed out that there was no forewarning about the hazardous nature of the radioactive substance which was being sold as scrap by the Delhi University. Their lawyer Sachin Chopra submitted that the present legal regime — for providing immediate relief and compensation to the victims of “man-made” disasters — is weak. This was because even the Public Liability Insurance Act 1991, which was enacted to provide interim relief to victims of industrial accidents excludes all nuclear and radiological accidents. The two petitioners developed unusual symptoms of hair loss, blackening of skin of arms and tongue, nausea, fever, extreme pain and alarming drop in platelet count.
The court has directed the director general of health services to subject the victims to a thorough medical check-up by a team of five medical experts within two weeks.