Bhopal gas compensation time limit extended

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi, April 25:

The Supreme Court today extended by one year till April 30, 2006, disbursement of Rs 15.03 billion in compensation to the 572,000 victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. Through an order issued on November 15, 2004, the apex court had directed that the welfare commissioner in Bhopal should disburse the money deposited by Union Carbide following a settlement with the Indian government to victims within three months. In February, that time limit was extended till April 30. In his application, the welfare commissioner said in the three months up to February 11, compensation worth Rs 2.24 billion had been disbursed to only 78,938 victims because of the complex nature of the identification process. The welfare commissioner said due to a shortage of judges, only 25 judges could be entrusted with disbursing the compensation.Tonnes of methyl isocyanate, a deadly gas used for making a pesticide, leaked from the US-owned Union Carbide manufacturing plant at Bhopal on the night of December 2-3, 1984, killing 3,000 people instantaneously.

The Supreme Court, accepting the commissioner’s request for more time, gave authorities one year from May 1, 2005 to disburse compensation to the remaining victims. The welfare commissioner pointed out that initially the payment of compensation to 572,029 victims was carried out over a span of more than 12 years. In an action plan, it was stated that the pro rata amount could be disbursed to the claimants within six months. The commissioner agreed that “some tall claims were made but due to practical difficulties the target that was proposed

could not be achieved.” He said more than 20 to 30 per cent of the claimants for compensation were not available, as their whereabouts were not known. A bench comprising Chief Justice RC Lahoti and judge BN Srikrishna, after hearing counsel S Murlidhar, accepted the welfare commissioner’s request and extended the time for disbursing funds till April 30, 2006.