Bhopal gas tragedy: Out-of-court settlement records missing?

Last Updated: Sunday, December 19, 2010 - 15:50

New Delhi: Has the file relating to the
two-decade-old out-of-court settlement between the government
and the Union Carbide in Bhopal gas tragedy case gone missing?

The crucial file containing developments, which had led
to the settlement in February 1989, and details of views
expressed by officials and file notings on it "could not be
located" in the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, an RTI
reply has revealed.

On the intervening night of December 2 and 3,
1984, lethal gas methyl isocyanate leaked from the plant of
Union Carbide in Bhopal, killing over 15,000 people.

In the 1989 settlement, the Union Carbide agreed to pay
USD 470 million which included insurance along with interest
in a full and final settlement of its civil and criminal
liability in the worst industrial disaster.

An RTI applicant had sought from the External Affairs
Ministry all documents relating to the settlement. The
ministry did not send any reply initially. It was only after
the Central Information Commission issued a show-cause notice,
the Cabinet Secretariat said the application had been
"erroneously" referred to it.

The Cabinet Secretariat forwarded the matter to
Chemicals and Fertilisers for a reply as the matter was
closely related to that ministry.

"It is informed that the relevant documents related to
the out-of-court settlement done with Union Carbide
Corporation, as required by you, could not be located in the
department despite efforts," the Ministry of Chemicals said in
its reply. It added that documents may be obtained from
Supreme Court Registry.

The out-of-court settlement of 1989 had come under heavy
criticism from all quarters. As against the demand of
compensation of Rs 3,900 crore, the government had settled for
only Rs 615 crore.

"The entire House, cutting across party lines, should
adopt a resolution to scrap the 1989 agreement and send back
the waste material to the US," Leader of Opposition in the Lok
Sabha Sushma Swaraj had said during a debate in Parliament in
August.

Demanding that Parliament pass a resolution scrapping
the 1989 out-of-court settlement between Union Carbide and the
government, she said what was witnessed in Bhopal was "a case
of corporate manslaughter" and not of "mere negligence".

PTI



First Published: Sunday, December 19, 2010 - 15:50

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