Indian officials hailed a court ruling that U.S. multinational Union Carbide Corp. must pay $192 million in interim relief to victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.

State High Court Judge S.K. Seth Monday rejected Union Carbide's bid to block the interim payments to the victims of history's worst industrial disaster, but he lowered the amount of the award by $78 million, from $270 million to $192 million.Seth said delaying payments until after a trial "would have grave and tragic consequences."

Vepa Sarthy, the counsel for the Indian government, hailed the judge's decision, saying "it is a case of a triumph of justice."

Anil Dewan, a Union Carbide attorney, said he was "neither happy nor unhappy with the judgment. We will have to study it."

Union Carbide, based in Danbury, Conn., had appealed a district court judge's order directing it to pay $270 million, arguing that the interim relief ruling amounted to a verdict on its liability before the case had gone to trial.

But in handing down his ruling in Jabalpur, the high court judge in Madhya Pradesh state concluded that a postponement of relief payments until after a trial could have a serious impact on many of the victims.

"Any delay in extending the appropriate relief by way of interim payment of damages would have grave and tragic consequences," Seth wrote in his 101-page decision. "As far as the other claims are concerned, (they) have to wait to the final result of the suit."

The disaster, which killed between 2,500 and 2,850 people, occurred Dec. 3, 1984, when methyl isocyanate gas leaked from the now-closed Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal.