New Delhi, Mar 14 (EFE).- India’s top court on Tuesday set aside a government request for additional compensation to the victims of the 1984 gas tragedy that caused thousands of death, with chronic health effects persisting nearly four decades later.
The federal government had urged the court to order the American chemical company Union Carbide’s new parent firm to pay an additional $950 million to the victims of the worst industrial disaster in India.
However, Dow Chemical, which now owns Union Carbide, rejected the government’s 2010 request, saying it was not liable because it bought the company more than a decade after Union Carbide had settled its liabilities.
“We believe this would not be the appropriate course of action or method to impose a greater liability on the UCC (Union Carbide) than it initially agreed to bear,” the court ruled.
“We are equally dissatisfied with the Union of India for being unable to furnish any rationale for raking up this issue more than two decades after the incident.”
The court said an agreement could be valid or set aside in fraud cases.
“No such fraud has been pleaded by the centre and their only contention relates to a number of injuries and costs that were not contemplated at the time of the settlement.”
The government insisted that the extent of the tragedy could not be ascertained when the agreement was signed with Union Carbide.
The government argued that future environmental impacts of the chemical leak were also not considered in calculating compensation.
Union Carbide agreed in 1989, five years after the disaster, to pay $470 million to the government after the gas leak at the central Indian city of Bhopal killed more than 5,200 people.
The government said the toll due to the tragedy at the time of the settlement was 3,000, which has jumped to 5,295 over the decades.
The Supreme Court held the government responsible for the lack of foresight.
The toxic gas leak occurred in December 1984. Although the government only acknowledges 5,295 deaths, the victims’ associations estimate the number of fatalities at 25,000.
The leak poisoned the city’s air, soil, and water, particularly in the areas near the plant complex, where the toxic levels measured seven times higher than in the unaffected areas. EFE