Sanctity of settlement in view of so much international trade, SC to Centre in Bhopal gas tragedy

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Sanctity of settlement in view of so much international trade, SC to Centre in Bhopal gas tragedy

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said there has to be sanctity of a settlement, when there is so much international trade and commerce while hearing Centre’s curative plea seeking an additional Rs 7,844 crore from the successor firms of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC).
 

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said there has to be sanctity of a settlement, when there is so much international trade and commerce while hearing Centre’s curative plea seeking an additional Rs 7,844 crore from the successor firms of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC).

A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, told Attorney General R. Venkataramani, appearing for the Centre: “It is not that we are not sensitive to what had happened, but when the Supreme Court does something it has wider ramification.”

The bench – also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna, Abhay S. Oka, Vikram Nath and J.K. Maheshwari – said: “There has to be sanctity of a settlement, especially in today’s time, when there is so much international trade and commerce.”

The bench noted that in one of its judgments in the proceedings, in 1991, the court had suggested the government take out insurance policies for victims to take care of the future claims, but it appears the government did not implement it.

It further told the AG that the Centre did not file a review petition instead a curative petition after over 20 years of the agreement.

“We are constrained by law, although we have some leeway. But we cannot say that we will decide a curative petition on the basis of jurisdiction of an original suit,” the bench said.

The Centre did not file a review petition for cancelling the settlement, which it seeks to enhance now. The AG argued that the top court had endorsed the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 and the scheme under it and pressed that it is very important to go beyond some of the conventional principles in view of human tragedy.

The Central government has emphasised that damage to human lives could not be assessed in the settlement arrived in 1989.

Justice Kaul said: “Problem is you are putting it on them (UCC). Can we open everything at this point of time?”

The top court is hearing a curative petition filed by the Centre in December 2010 for enhanced compensation for the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy.

 


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