Bhopal gas tragedy: Pending cases expose govt apathy

  • Ashutosh Shukla, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Nov 29, 2014 16:26 IST

That many of the cases related to Bhopal gas disaster remain pending right from the Supreme Court to Bhopal’s trial court even 30 years after the tragedy suggests apathy on the part of successive governments at the Centre and in MP.

While the Supreme Court is seized of a civic curative petition seeking Rs 7,786 crore more from Union Carbide or its successive company M/s Dow Chemical towards enhanced compensation, the MP high court is monitoring medical care to the gas-affected people – a task undertaken by the court consequent to a petition filed by NGOs in 1998 before the apex court.

The Supreme Court didn’t dispose of the PIL so as to monitor the medical care being provided to the gas victims. The monitoring job has now been transferred to the high court. This medical PIL has the distinction of being the longest-pending petition in an Indian court.

Besides, the Supreme Court is hearing petition seeking clean up of Carbide site through disposal of toxic waste in and around the factory premises. The Bhopal district and sessions judge is hearing a CBI revision petition against the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) court order awarding only two-year imprisonment to seven Indian accused in the case. The CBI contends that the court could have awarded consecutive sentences under different sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) rather than concurrent sentence, thereby limiting their jail term.

All the individual accused in the case, except for the then chairman of Union Carbide Warren Anderson, now dead, were prosecuted under section 304 (a), 336, 337 and 338 of the IPC.

The trial court in Bhopal i.e. the court of chief judicial magistrate has not been able to close the trial against 12 accused persons and three companies in the case despite awarding sentence to seven Indian accused in the case. Anderson, Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and Union Carbide (eastern) Hong Kong had been declared absconding in the case.

The CJM court, as of now, is hearing two applications filed by NGOs. The court issued summons to Dow Chemical at its headquarters in Michigan, USA on July 23 last year asking it to appear in the court on November 12, 2014, but the company didn’t turn up on that day, making the court to repeat the summons to the US chemical giant.

Another application seeking punitive action against then collector, Bhopal, Moti Singh and then superintendent of police, Swaraj Puri for letting Warren Anderson go from Bhopal and escorting him to airport to see him off would also be coming up for hearing soon.

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