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'Govt unlikely to succeed in reopening Bhopal settlement case'

June 27, 2010 21:31 IST

The government is not likely to succeed in reopening the settlement issue in the Bhopal gas tragedy case, said noted jurist Fali S Nariman.

"No, I don't think so," he said on whether government will succeed in reopening the settlement with Union Carbide with the hope of increasing the compensation amount for the victims of the 1984 disaster.

Nariman, who was the lead lawyer of Union Carbide in the gas leak case, told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN's Devil's Advocate programme, "a settlement is a settlement and unless there is some fraud involved, it's never reopened".

He said the court had made it clear that it would be the responsibility of the government to make up for the extra amount even if it was assumed that the quantum reached was wrong.

The Supreme Court had fixed the compensation amount at $470 million in its verdict in February 1989.

Nariman replied in the affirmative when being asked whether the 1989 settlement was full and final and did not believe that the Supreme will reopen the settlement and increase the compensation paid by Union Carbide.

Under attack over the gas tragedy issue, the government had on June 24 decided to push for extradition of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson and ascertain the liability of Dow Chemicals besides announcing a Rs 1,265.56-crore package for relief and remediation.

"Yeah, I think I was described along with others as a fallen angel. I am no angel, of course, but nor am I a devil. But fallen angel would perhaps sum up what others thought of this whole episode," he said when asked if he accepts that the human rights cause, perhaps without his intention, was damaged by his accepting the Carbide brief.

Asked whether he regretted accepting the Union carbide brief, Nariman said, "Well, let me put it this way, If I had to live my life all over again, as a lawyer, and the brief came to me and I had foreknowledge of everything that later came in, I would certainly not have accepted the civil liability case which I did."

He was asked whether he saw the case largely or simply as a legal case rather than as a national tragedy while accepting the brief and, in that sense, whether it was a mistake on his part.

"Yes, I think so, because I thought this was one more case which would add a feather to my cap. I mean one is always ambitious at that age. But, I found later, but then it's too late -- one can't walk out of the case one has already taken up -- that this involved, it was not a case; it was a tragedy.

"And in a tragedy, who is right, who is wrong etc all becomes marred in great deal of justifiable emotion."
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