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Bhopal ministerial panel looking at legal options

New Delhi, June 19 (Calcutta Tube) On the second day of its meeting, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal gas tragedy Saturday discussed legal options before the government in the wake of the June 7 trial court judgement and reached some ‘tentative conclusions’, panel head Home Minister P. 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,’ Chidambaram told reporters here after the first session of the GoM’s meeting Saturday.

At the next meeting in the evening, the GoM will discuss issues relating to health and healthcare of people who have suffered and ‘perhaps continue to suffer’ due to the 1984 toxic gas leak that killed thousands.

He said the conclusions of the panel will be framed up and the report submitted to the prime minister Monday.

The GoM began its deliberations Friday on various issues concerning the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster. It is discussing various issues separately after which it will take a comprehensive view.

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.

On June 7, a Bhopal court sentenced seven Indian executives of Union Carbide to only two years in jail and immediately granted them bail.

The Dec 2-3, 1984, toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide plant killed over 3,000 people instantly and an estimated 20,000 over the years.

Besides Chidambaram, the GoM consists of Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, Roads and Highways Minister Kamal Nath, Tourism Minister Kumari Selja, Fertilisers and Chemicals Minister M.K. Alagiri, Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

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