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Bhopal tragedy: SC refuses to reopen case
New Delhi/ Bhopal, MAY 11 (Agencies/IANS):
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Published on 11 May. 2011 11:13 PM IST
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In a major setback to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected CBI’s curative petition for prosecuting those accused, who have escaped with lighter punishment of two years jail term, under the stringent penal provision attracting maximum ten years of imprisonment.
The order was passed by the apex court bench comprising justices Altamas Kabir, RV Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy, Aftab Alam and headed by the Chief Justice SH Kapadia.
The apex court bench observed that there was a lack of satisfactory explanation in the curative petition filed by the CBI.
“No satisfactory explanation was given by the CBI and the Madhya Pradesh government on filing curative petition after lapse of 14 years,” the apex court bench said. The bench also chided the central investigating agency for filing the curative petition so late in connection with the case.
“September 1996 verdict and order was never a fetter for CBI or the Madhya Pradesh government to seek enhancement of charges,” the Supreme Court said.
The apex court had heard the case on a day-to-day basis and would now hear the plea for enhancement of compensation from Rs 750 crore to Rs 7,700 crore for the victims.
The same bench had reserved the order on April 27 on the petition seeking to recall the apex court’s 14-year-old judgement that had diluted the charges against the accused who were prosecuted just for the offence of being negligent.
In its plea, CBI has sought restoration of stringent charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead of death caused due to negligence against the accused in the world’s worst industrial disaster that left over 15,000 people dead and thousands maimed.
In this matter, Madhya Pradesh government has also moved the apex court seeking its permission to intervene in the petition filed by CBI to re-examine September 1996 judgement by which the accused persons were tried for the offence of criminal negligence which resulted in a lighter punishment of two years’ jail term of several accused, including former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra, on June 7, 2010.
Keshub Mahindra has opposed CBI’s plea arguing that the case should be decided on the basis of law and not on the basis of facts.
The apex court had on August 31 last year decided to re-examine its own judgement that led to lighter punishment of two years imprisonment for all the seven convicts.
Besides Mahindra, Vijay Gokhale, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, then Vice President, JN Mukund, then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, then Production Manager, K V Shetty, then Plant Superintendent and SI Quereshi, then Production Assistant were convicted and sentenced to two years’ jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7 last year.
The verdict had sparked a nationwide outrage, leading to the government setting up a Group of Ministers and filing of a curative petition against the lighter punishment for those responsible for the gas tragedy.
Appearing for CBI, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati had said the investigating agency’s decision to seek a review was taken on the facts “which shook our conscience”.
26 years, still no justice, say Bhopal survivors, activists
Shock and disbelief were writ large on the faces of activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy whose hopes were dashed when the Supreme Court Wednesday rejected the CBI plea for more stringent punishment to the seven accused.
Many squarely blamed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for failing to defend the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster that originated at the now shut Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, killing at least 3,000 people on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984 and many thousands later. “We are not demanding charity, we are demanding justice which has not been done in 26 years,” Abdul Jabbar, a indignant survivor and convenor of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan, told IANS.
“An incident took place and thousands died. The whole world is watching. What would be the message? How is the Indian government and judiciary responsible for citizens?
“All this is happening because the gas tragedy victims are poor,” he said in a tone tinged with disgust and anger. “Why will the gas victims have to suffer again and again because of the faults of the government and CBI? The judgment is shocking. In fact during trial it seemed something good would come in the verdict, but the result remains zero,” Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action told reporters in Bhopal.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action told IANS: “The CBI was never interested in fighting for the gas victims, and did not take help from us.
“It is we who have been fighting against the 1996 Supreme Court verdict. The CBI only woke up after pressure from the group of ministers (GoM) and put a curative petition after 14 years.”
“The order shows that even the judiciary is not with the victims, and they are made to suffer for a fault of the CBI,” she said.
“The Supreme Court decision says the lower court can take cognizance of its own. But if trial takes place like it has happened till now, it will take 15 more years to come to a conclusion. The Bhopal case should be treated like 26/11 terror attack. Day-to-day hearings should take place,” Dhingra said.
The Union Carbide disaster, in which lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the plant, killed 3,000 people instantly and 25,000 over the years. It also affected 100,000 people and estimates are that more than 500,000 continue to suffer from ill effects of the gas till date.

 
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