Bhopal guilty cant get away so easily: CBI to SC

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 4 2010, 04:13am hrs
The CBI on Monday filed a curative petition to correct the Supreme Courts colossal failure of justice in 1996 when it chose to dismiss the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster as the result of an act of negligence, and not culpable homicide, by former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson and his Indian employees. The 70-page petition, settled by attorney general GE Vahanvati, was filed in the Supreme Court to restore the criminal charge of Section 304 Part II IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against the accused.

The tragedy unfolded in Bhopal on the night intervening the 02.12.1984 and 03.12.1984 when a highly dangerous and toxic gas, namely Methyl Isocyanate (MIC), escaped from the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL). It resulted in the death of 5,295 human beings, and injuries to almost 5,68,292 persons besides loss of livestock and loss of property of almost 5,478 persons, stated the petition.

Sending the message that $470 million was not enough to compensate for one of the worlds biggest industrial catastrophes, the CBI, in its petition drafted by advocate Devadutt Kamat, stated: No amount of compensation or rehabilitation can substitute the loss of these innocent lives. The state is duty bound to ensure that justice is done to these thousands of persons who lost their lives.

It blamed the Supreme Court Bench, led by the then Chief Justice of India AM Ahmadi, for disregarding prosecution evidence which showed the accused guilty of offences under Section 304 Part IIit attracts imprisonment up to 10 years or fine or both.Justice Ahmadis Bench quashed charges under Section 304 Part II and replaced it with the lesser offence under Section 304-A (causing death by negligence), which prescribes punishment up to two years or fine or both.The agency said the state owes it to society and the nation to now make an attempt to remedy the gross miscarriage of justice by the Supreme Court on September 13, 1996.

The perpetrators behind the leakage of hazardous MIC gas in the UCIL plant should not be able to walk away with a minimal punishment of two years under Section 304-A in one of the worlds biggest industrial catastrophes, the CBI said.The 1996 judgment was delivered without consideration of any material placed before the court by the prosecution at that stage.

The failure of justice on the Supreme Courts part opened a loophole for the accused to get away with minimal charges despite categorical evidence pointing to the commission of offences under Section 304 PartII of the IPC, the CBI stated.It contends that the SC judgment led to an ineffectual 26-year-long trial at the Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrates court, which saw Anderson declared an absconder in 1992 and the seven remaining accused, including former Union Carbide India chairman and accused number 2 Keshub Mahindra, get a two-year jail sentence each on June 7, 2010.

The CBI said the two-decade trial was, however, instrumental in collecting categorical evidence which showed that the disaster was a result of the accused persons criminal knowledge of the defective plant, rather than mere negligence.