The apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Altmas Kabir, Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice Aftab Alam passed the order after considering the government’s petition during the in-chamber hearing.
The court in its brief order said: ‘Place these petitions seeking enhancement in court along with curative petition in CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) vs Keshub Mahindra on Feb 28 at 2 p.m.’
The gas tragedy killed 3,000 people instantly and affected over 15,000 due to a leak of methyl isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in the heart of Bhopal.
On Dec 3 last year, the 26th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas tragedy, the central government moved a petition in the court seeking revised compensation for the victims and the consequent environmental degradation.
The government sought the enhancement of compensation, determined by the apex court in 1989, on the grounds that the settlement arrived in 1989 was based on the ‘assumptions of truth unrelated to realities’.
The petition said that the revised amount sought in 2010 was on account of devaluation of rupee, interest rate and purchasing power parity and inflation index.
At the time of calculating earlier compensation, the number of dead was taken to be 3,000, which subsequently turned out to be 5,295. Similarly the victims with minor injuries were taken as 50,000 which eventually turned out to be 527,895.
The total revised amount being sought in the petition is $1,241.38 million as per Aug 22, 2010 rates.
The basis for calculating this amount was that the compensation awarded in February 1989 was Rs.675.96 crore. When converted into dollars at the then prevailing rates it would have been equal to $442.67 million.
The petition contended that if the amount had remained invested in dollars on yearly basis and based on London interbank offered rate it would have become $1,241.38 million by Aug 22, 2010.
The amount of compensation to be paid in 2010 varies based on the parameters of calculating it. The compensation awarded in February 1989 is being claimed in 2010, the petition said.
The petition placed various options before the apex court for calculating the enhanced compensation. That included the levying of interest, calculating by taking inflation index in consideration and basing calculation on dollar value as prevailing today.
The petition also sought the recovery of Rs.1,743.15 crore which the central government and the Madhya Pradesh government spent in the aftermath of the tragedy for the relief and rehabilitation of the victims.
The petition said that this was the tax payer’s money, which could not be spent on the wrong committed by the Union Carbide.
Another component of the revised compensations was Rs.315.7 crore which, the petition said, was spent on the handling of the toxic waste left behind by the gas leak.