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BHOPAL-Limits of Justice

Limits of Justice? LAST month a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act under which the central government had arrogated to itself the citizens' right to claim compensation for damages resulting from the disaster. The Act had been challenged on the grounds of it being violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The judges have held that the act is not violative of natural justice because there are sufficient safeguards to protect the citizens'rights: for instance, that the opinion of the concerned persons must be sought before accepting any settlement on their behalf. Ironically, however, the judges, anticipating the verdict on a related petition, have held that the settlement agreed upon by the government and Union Carbide is valid despite the fact that it was not at any stage referred to the people concerned.The bench avers that no post-decisional hearing of the victims' pleas is necessary since that would not result in justice being done: "To do a great right, after all,, it is permissible to do a little wrong". Thus at one stroke the court both pronounces the act valid and condones a settlement which violates the very provision which makes the act, according to the court, constitutionally valid.

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