Fate of claim courts hangs in balance
Central Chronicle, 7th March 2001


BHOPAL MARCH 6: The Supreme Court directive regarding filing of fresh restoration applications for gas claims were rejected by the claim courts earlier, has put the state government in a tizzy. The government had decided to wind up claim courts.

In fact, nearly one lakh persons, some of them could be fake were denied justice earlier. When more than 75,000 cases of the gas victims were rejected for non-appearance, rest 20,000 are stated to be missing.

"Earlier from 1988 clerks were dealing with the cases of gas claims, and the claim courts came into existence only in 1992", said a senior officer in the Law department.

He said that although receipts were issued to the victims, claims were abandoned.

The officer confirmed that more than 95,000 cases would have to be settled after the fresh directives of the Supreme Court.

The Apex court, in its recent judgment directed that the Claims commissioners would publish the entire list of the claimants whose claims were dismissed for default on account of the notification as on March 2, 2001.

The claimants would get sixty days time to file their restoration applications. The court further directed that the Claim Commissioner would also publish a list of pending claims as on March 2, 2001. In fact, the state government on February 5, 2000 had began the process to close down the claim courts.

In a government notification, an amendment was introduced in procedure, saying that if the case is dismissed or rejected in the absence of claimant and if within the period of thirty days, from the date of the said order or if the case is dismissed or rejected before March 1, 2000, from March 1, 2000, the claimant appears and file an application and satisfied that there was sufficient cause for his non-appearance on the date fixed for the hearing, the Tribunal may reopen the case and after giving an opportunity of hearing and to produce evidence, may decide the claim.

But it was conditional as the notification further added, "provided if the tribunal is satisfied that the claimant was prevented by sufficient cause from his appearance before the tribunal within the said period of thirty days, the tribunal may, within a further period of thirty days but not thereafter reopen the case for hearing".

"In fact, the decision had come as a relief to the gas victims", said the Law department official and added that most of the victims were illiterate and details of the claims were published in newspapers. Now, when the state government is no tenterhooks for closing of the claim courts, the fresh decision of the Supreme Court has given a new turn.

"The government is left with no alternative as the Union government has not released any fund since long time", said an officer of Gas Claim department.

Only after the non-cooperation of the union government the state government decided to close down claim courts, said the officer.