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Bhopal tragedy: SC questions CBI for delay in plea
Published on 14 Apr. 2011 12:38 AM IST
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The Supreme Court Wednesday quizzed the CBI for knocking on its doors 16 years after the court told the probe agency to book the seven accused in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy case under less stringent charges.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wants the apex court to restore against the accused, including the then Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) chairman Keshub Mahindra, the stringent charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, punishable with a maximum jail term of 10 years.
The charges against the accused were diluted by the apex court by its Sep 13, 1996 judgment. They were convicted by a Bhopal court last year under the less stringent provision of causing death due to negligence, carrying a maximum punishment of two years’ jail.
An apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice R.V. Raveendran, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy and Justice Aftab Alam asked Attorney General G. Vahanvati, appearing for the CBI, why it took the agency so long to file the petition.
Vahanvati told the court that a review petition was filed by someone and it was dismissed and perhaps that made the investigating agency decide against filing another review petition.
“I don’t know why the review petition was not filed but a review petition was filed in the case by someone else and it was dismissed,” Vahanvati told the court.
The court said that “you filed the curative petition only after public hue and cry” following the trial court verdict last year.
The attorney general defended the delayed action by the CBI saying “justice is never denied on the grounds of delayed proceedings”.
As attorney general said that if we had come in the course of the trial we would have been told that “you can’t come at the stage when the trial is going on”, the court observed “better late than never”.
He referred to an earlier judgment of the apex court which said “the duty to do justice in rarest of rare cases shall have to prevail over the policy of the certainty of judgment…wherein declining to reconsider the judgment” would cause perpetuation of irremediable justice.
The attorney general told the court that after its 1996 verdict the CBI has got new material supporting the case for the enhancement of charges.
“No where it (1996 judgment) had said that it (trial court) would not consider the new material,” the court said.
“The apex court had said that it was passing the order on the basis of the material before it. No where it had said that it (trial court) would not consider the new material,” the judges said.
The court also wanted to know it the trial court recorded in its judgment that “there is new material before it yet it will go by the order passed by the apex court. We have to read the judgment...”
Vahanvati said: “The grounds on which charges (of culpable homicide not amounting to murder) could have been framed against the accused were completely taken away by the judgment of the apex court.”
“The magistrate could not have altered the order passed by the apex court,” said Vahanvati.
The court said that it wanted to lay down the law and was going into the parameters of the curative petition filed by the CBI. “We are formulating a proposition and (trying to) see if it was sustainable in law,” said Chief Justice Kapadia.

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