Bhopal gas disaster GoM discusses legal options

The GoM discussed legal options available in the aftermath of the trial court judgement.

Updated: Jun 20, 2010, 00:12 AM IST

New Delhi: A Group of Ministers (GoM) on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy Saturday said all issues regarding the health of the victims and legal options before the government were discussed and a final report on the corrective measures to be taken will be submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday.

"We discussed for two hours all issues regarding health, that is, the Bhopal Memorial Trust Hospital, the satellite hospital, surveys conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the rehabilitation work," panel head Home Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters here.
"We heard concerns of everyone and reached some conclusions which will enable us to decide how rehabilitation work must be done in future under which aegis and auspices," he said.

He added that the panel is set to hold its final session Sunday morning when the conclusions will be firmed up.

"The urban development ministry will help in the relocation of the affected families," Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, who was also part of the panel, said.

Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that his ministry will ensure research and rehabilitation support.

Earlier in the day, the panel had discussed legal options before the government in the wake of the June 7 trial court judgement and reached some "tentative conclusions" Chidambaram said.

"We discussed all pending issues and options before the government after the trial court judgement. We heard all concerned and reached some tentative conclusions," he said.

A trial court had sentenced seven Indian executives of Union Carbide India Limited to two years imprisonment each for criminal negligence. But the officials were baled out within minutes, leading to cries of travesty of justice.

The GoM began its deliberations Friday on various issues concerning the gas tragedy, the world`s worst industrial disaster. Over three thousand people died instantly when gas leaked from the pesticide plant Dec 2-3, 1984. Many thousands have succumbed to various after effects over the years.

Chidambaram had said Friday that the GoM will give most sympathetic consideration to all those who had suffered due to the tragedy.

Official sources said the GoM was exploring the options of moving court for reconsideration of the 1996 Supreme Court judgement reducing the offences against the accused into one of criminal negligence from that of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

They said that the issue of fixing responsibility and possibility of seeking extradition of then Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson, an accused in the 1984 Bhopal gas leak, would also be looked at.
The sources said that the Planning Commission is understood to have released Rs.982 crore to the Madhya Pradesh government for rehabilitation of the Bhopal gas victims.

The state government`s proposal, in the shape of an action plan, had been pending with the commission.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reconstituted the high-level ministerial group, originally set up in 2008, last month.

Besides Chidambaram, Azad and Reddy, the GoM consists of Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Reddy, Roads and Highways Minister Kamal Nath, Tourism Minister Selja, Fertilisers and Chemicals Minister M.K. Alagiri, Minister of State in the Prime Minister`s Office Prithviraj Chavan and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Bhopal gas victims` rehabilitation Cong priority

Facing flak over the handling of the Bhopal gas case, Congress today said rehabilitation and relief for Bhopal gas victims was the party`s priority now but insisted that the guilty should be punished.

"The GoM (formed recently) is considering all aspects of the matter... And we will be able to give you a proper considered view only after the GoM submits its report," party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters here.

To a question, she wanted to know what the BJP had done to extradite Warren Anderson, the then chief of Union Carbide, when it was in power at the Centre for six years.