The Supreme Court Monday chided the central government for not doing anything for disposing toxic waste for 28 years since the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya said that there was total “apathy” in dealing with the situation “because the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy are poor”.
The apex court is hearing a government plea challenging an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court directing the secretary of the environment and forests ministry to appear before it.
For 28 years you have not decided and “even the affidavit is vague. There is a lack of seriousness. We will ask the high court to consider since it is dealing with the situation”, the court said.
Referring to protests at Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh where the toxic waste was sought to be disposed, the judges said wherever people had an apprehension about their lives and health, they had a right to protest.
The court asked Additional Solicitor General Gourab Banerji to tell how many meetings a group of ministers (GoM) held on the issue.
“How many meetings did the GoM have because we find that in your affidavit…there is no mention about decisions taken” by it, the court said.
The central government in its affidavit said that the GoM decided to accept the Madhya Pradesh government’s proposal on disposing the Union Carbide’s toxic waste by employing the state-run German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The GoM had asked the state government to find out all the details by June 8 and submit a report, it said.
Banerji told the court that from 2004 there were four proposals for the consideration of the government for incineration of the toxic waste.
A proposal to dispose the waste at a site in Gujarat was disallowed by the Gujarat Pollution Control Board.
He told the court that there was a move to dispose the waste at Pithampur but it too had to be shelved because of objections and apprehension of law and order problem.
The additional solicitor general told the court that the matter would be decided soon and a final call will be taken during the meeting of the GoM June 8.
Appearing for the Madhya Pradesh government, senior counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad told the court that by June 5 “we are expecting a report from GIZ. This court should wait for the report to come”.
Fixing the next hearing July 2, the court said that it was ready to give the Madhya Pradesh government a “chance”.
On the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide’s pesticides plant in Bhopal, killing several thousand people. The toxic waste is lying at the plant since then.