President Carter yesterday pocket vetoed the Tris indemnification bill that would have provided huge government payments to cover losses sustained by businesses because of the ban on the use of the chemical Tris in children's sleepwear.

The move was hailed as a "gutsy act" by Anita Johnson of the Environmental Defense Fund, which had called the bill "a raid on the Treasury."

In a highly unusual action accompanying his statement, President Carter called on Small Business Administration Vernon Weaver to seek out small firms that may be in serious financial difficulty because of the veto, "and assist them as much as possible under existing loan programs."

Tris became an issue in 1971 when the government first set strict flammability standards on children's clothing.In order to make the clothing flame-resistant, the clothing industry chose to treat the fabric with Tris, a chemical flame-retardant.

But in 1975, information that Tris might cause some forms of cancer, first surfaced. "Some firms stopped using Tris after this test information became available," President Carter said yesterday in his memorandum of disapproval, "but other firms did not."

Then, in April 1977, the Consumer Product Safety Commission ruled that sleepwater containing Tris would be banned as a "hazardous substance," and ordered clothing manufacturers to buy back, at their expense, whatever Tris garments had been sent to stores - an action President Carter labeled as "fully justified."

But the manufacturers balked, claiming they had been victimized by government regulators who ordered them to put a chemical in, then ordered them to take it out - at their expense.

But consumer groups have contended that the industry still sold Tris-treated garments after the possible carcinogenic qualities were reported, because the chemical was among the cheapest available.

In his announcement yesterday, Carter said he decided not to approve the bill for three reasons:

It would have established "an unwise precedent for paying industry for losses which occur when a product is used to meet a regulatory standard and the product is later found to be hazardous."

In his announcement yesterday, Carter said he decided not to approve the bill for three reasons:

It would have established "an unwise precedent for paying industry for losses which occur when a product is used to meet a regulatory standard and the product is later found to be hazardous.

The bill would have resulted "in complex, expensive and time-consuming litigation, particularly by large retailers who have substantial sums at stake and can finance such ligtigation."

There had been considerable pressure from the industry on Carter to sign the bill, which would have provided millions of dollars to the clothing manufacturers. Many of the manufacturers were bitter because although the clothing was treated with Tris at the mills who supplied the fabric to the clothing maufacturer, but it was the manufacturer who was ordered to buy back the affected garments.

Had the bill been signed, the companies would have had to go to the U.S. Court of Claims with their requests for reimbursement.