By N D Sharma
Bhopal, March 3 The survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, who were hit hard by
the notification issued by the Welfare Commissioner (Bhopal Gas Victims) last year, have
got a reprieve from Fridays Supreme Court verdict directing the Welfare Commissioner
to give two months time to the survivors to present their case.
The February 5,2000 notification had enjoined upon the Claims Courts the right to reject
the claim for compensation if the case had already been dismissed or rejected in the
absence of the claimant. The notification was described by the victims organisations
as arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of
India as it effectively denied the claimant any right to pursue his or her claim.
The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, the organisation working among the victims,
had pleaded before the Supreme Court through a writ petition that many of the victims had
not even received notice or intimation till then and had no means of knowing the exact
status of their claim applications. If the victims had changed their residential address
and intimated it to the office of the Commissioner, there was no acknowledgement. Very
often the victims came to the court of the Deputy Commissioner (the judicial officer
hearing the compensation case) and waited for days on end without knowing whether their
claims would be taken up or not.
A division bench of the apex court comprising Justices B N Kirpal, Duraiswamy Raju and
Rupa Paul has now directed the Welfare Commissioner (Bhopal Gas Victims) to publicise in
the local newspapers the names of the claimants whose applications have been rejected on
technical grounds and give them two months time to pursue their claims, beginning from the
date of the publication of the names.
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan convener Abdul Jabbar estimates the number of
such claimants to be between 80,000 and one lakh.
Besides, there are 50,000 to 60,000 victims whose files have disappeared from
the courts. Some 20,000 belong to yet another category: impostors have fraudulently taken
the compensation amounts on behalf of these people. Jabbar says all of them will have the
opportunity to present their cases afresh in the Claims Courts in terms of the Supreme