New Delhi: Terming the verdict in the Bhopal
gas tragedy case as "very unsatisfactory," Environment
Minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday said a green tribunal will be set
up by the year-end to ensure that the victims of such
disasters get speedy relief.
"It is a matter of deep anguish that it has taken such a
long time for the verdict to come out which is clearly very
unsatisfactory from every point of view and the furore over it
is understandable," Ramesh said.
His comments came a day after a Bhopal court sentenced
former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six
others to two years imprisonment each in the gas tragedy case,
nearly 26 years after world`s worst industrial disaster left
over 15,000 dead. The verdict has come under attack from civil
rights activists and political parties.
The bill to set up National Green Tribunal, a fast-track
court for disposal of environment-related civil cases which
has recently been passed by Parliament, would ensure justice
to the victims of Bhopal-like disasters, Ramesh said.
The minister hoped that it will become operational by
the end of this year.
On contaminated material near the disaster site, Ramesh
said three institutes -- National Geophysical Research
Institute, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and
National Environmental Engineering Research Institute -- are
conducting a study in this regard, which will be completed by
the end of this month.
On the issue of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, he
said, "I can assure the people that we will be strict in
implementing it without fear or favour so that future Bhopals
do not recur".
In fact, the EPA was brought by Prime Minister Rajiv
Gandhi in response to the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
"While nothing can mitigate the sufferings of the victims
of the disaster, we have decided to set up the main bench of
the tribunal at Bhopal, the site of one of the worst
industrial tragedies," the minister said. "It is a small
gesture of tribute to the affected people," he said.
With Public Interest Litigations on environmental issues
flooding the courts, the tribunal aims to reduce the pressure
by handling all civil cases relating to forestry and
environment. The tribunal will also address all substantial
questions relating to environment.
"India is the third country after Australia and New
Zealand in the world which will have specialised environment
courts," Ramesh pointed out.
The tribunal will have four circuit benches and will deal
with all environmental laws on air and water pollution, the
EPA, the Forest Conservation Act and the Biodiversity Act
giving the citizens a right to file a case against the
offenders whether it is a corporate entity or a civic body.