The Supreme Court will pronounce its order on Wednesday on CBI's plea for prosecuting Bhopal gas tragedy case accused, who have escaped with lighter punishment of two years jail term, under the stringent penal provision attracting maximum ten years of imprisonment.
The bench headed by the Chief Justice SH Kapadia 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.
The bench also comprised justice Altamas Kabir, justice RV Raveendran, justice B Sudershan Reddy and justice Aftab Alam.
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.
The apex court has heard the case on a day-to-day basis and it would now hear the plea for enhancement of compensation from Rs 750 crore to Rs 7,700 crore for the victims.
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, 2010, 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, SP Choudhary, then Production Manager, KV 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, 2010.
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".
Requesting the apex court to modify its earlier order, he had said, "it is our duty to do justice and it should prevail in the public interest."
"Lots of values are involved in it and it was one of the rarest situation," he said.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmlani, appearing for 81-year-old professor Ramaswamy R Iyer who has intervened in the case, accused CBI of "shedding crocodile tears" and pleaded with the court to ask the government to reveal information on how it negotiated with the Union Carbide on the compensation for victims.
He further said politicians and bureaucrats have messed up the entire issue.