THE SUPREME Court today sought an affidavit from the Union Government on the number of actual deaths and injuries in the Bhopal gas tragedy in response to a PIL seeking five times more compensation to the gas victims.
Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Justice C K Thakker and Justice P K Balasubramanyan asked the Centre to file an affidavit within four weeks.
Two NGOs — Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS) and Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti (BGPSSS) — have filed the PIL seeking five time more compensation on the plea that the number of dead and the injured increased many times from those furnished in the court as eligible for compensation.
Citing Welfare Commissioner office records, the two NGOs contended that the 470-million US dollars settlement between Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and the Government of India was based on the figures of the dead and injured persons, which have turned out to be unrealistic and fallacious.
The settlement was based on the assumption that 3,000 people died in the gas tragedy and over one lakh were injured. The claim courts under Welfare Commissioner have compensated 15,274 people for death and 5,72,173 people for injuries in the disaster.
Advocate Indira Jaisinh, appearing for the NGOs, said the actual compensation for deaths and injuries should have been five times more than the figure assumed at the time of settlement, and as such the Union Government should compensate gas victims with additional amount.
The Supreme Court while endorsing the 1989 settlement had said any shortfall in the compensation amount would be made up by the Government of India, she reminded the court.
On another application, the court directed the Welfare Commissioner, Bhopal, to supply to the NGOs the list of about 18,000 people whose cases for pro-rata compensation were sought to be closed by the courts since they could not be traced.
The court granted two months to the NGOs to carry out verification about the persons whose cases have been sought to be closed.
The court further asked the State Government to file an affidavit on action taken on the recommendations of monitoring committee formed by the Supreme Court to streamline medical care of gas victims at gas relief hospitals.
The Supreme Court is seized a PIL on medical care of gas victims since 1998 and the same had also come up for hearing today.
The two NGOs contended that the settlement between UCC and the Government of India was based on the figures of the dead and injured persons, which have turned out to be unrealistic and fallacious.