A five judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice HS Kapadia, on April 13, began the hearing of curative petitions in the Bhopal gas tragedy. While hearing the curative petition filed by the CBI to re-examine the 1996 Supreme Court's judgement, the five judge bench questioned the CBI for approaching the court after a gap of 16 years and not filing a review petition during these years.
GE Vahanvati, Attorney General appearing for the CBI, clarified that a review petition was filed by some other organization in the past (Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangarsh Sahyog Samiti) but was dismissed and admitted that CBI was late in approaching the court. He added that the delay, however, should not be a reason to deny justice to thousands of people who lost their lives in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case on the night of December 2-3, 1984.
The curative petition by the CBI has been filed to book Keshub Mahindra, the then chairman of Union Carbide India Limited and others accused in the case under section 304 Part-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code.
“There were a series of events that took place from 1982, which showed that their were serious problems with the plant including design defects, lack of refrigeration, inadequate storage etc. The accused were aware of the omissions and commissions in the plant and despite that no steps were taken to avoid that accident and inform people of the precautions they needed to take in case of a gas leak,” he said.
According to the 1996 judgement, the court had ruled that the accused be tried under section 304(a), which amounts to causing death by negligence. The charge under section 304 Part- II was diluted to section 304(a) by a bench comprising chief justice AM Ahmadi and justice SB Majmudar. Last year on June 7, a trial court in Bhopal convicted and sentenced the seven accused to two years jail term.
GE Vahanvati’s argument went on for a whole day. The next hearing is scheduled for April 19.