Payback time

A Supreme Court ruling ensures compensation to a few Bhopal gas victims

Published: Saturday 31 March 2001

on the basis of a fresh petition filed by the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan and Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the Supreme Court has ordered that compensation should be paid to some of the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy. As per the notification dated March 2, 2001, the compensation should be paid within the next 60 days.

The two advocacy groups had filed the petition challenging the legality of a amendment notification issued by the welfare commissioner, Bhopal gas relief department, on February 5, 2000. As an amendment to the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Proceeding of Claims) Act, 1985, nearly 100,000 victims had lost their compensation rights as they did not stake claims by April 30, 2000. "A number of people did not get to know about the notification," says Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. Activists have also cast doubts on how the government plans to use the remaining money and the interest accumulated over time. "We have a suspicion that the government will keep this money and make some excuses," says Sarangi.

The controversy regarding the number of the victims has also intensified. According to the additional solicitor general, Mukul Rohtagi, though the population of Bhopal was only 0.8 million at the time of the disaster, the court has received more than one million applications so far. "Anyone can make a claim. But it is up to the courts to reject the claims," says Sarangi.

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