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Bhopal gas tragedy: Demand for fresh trial under stringent IPC section

An NGO, party in the Bhopal gas tragedy case in the court and fighting for the rights of the victims, has said it will move an application in the high court for setting up a special court to conduct a fresh trial against Union Carbide officials at that time.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2012 10:57 IST

An NGO, party in the Bhopal gas tragedy case in the court and fighting for the rights of the victims, has said it will move an application in the high court for setting up a special court to conduct a fresh trial against Union Carbide officials at that time.

This has become necessary after the dismissal of the CBI plea to change sections under which these officials should be tried, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan convenor, Abdul Jabbar told PTI.

"We will soon move an application in the high court against the district and sessions court decision dismissing CBI plea to raise quantum of punishment by retrying the case under section 304 (II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of IPC and demand Constitution of a special court for fresh trial in the case," Jabbar said.

"Already a lot of injustice has been done to the victims with the case taking over two decades (first time filed on December 1, 1987) to arrive at any decision, which was too little and too late in 2010," he said.

On August 28, 2012, the sessions court upheld a 2010 verdict of a trial court in the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy case while dismissing the CBI's petition seeking re-trial and enhancement of sentence awarded to former Union Carbide officials.

The revision petition seeking enhancement of sentence under the new section of 304-II of IPC, which provided for a maximum sentence of 10-year imprisonment, was rejected by district and sessions court judge Sushma Khosla.

The judge struck down the petition on the ground that the CBI should have approached the court of the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) during the trial for enhancing the punishment, observing that the agency has not filed the application within the mandatory time limit.

If the trial in the case is not conducted on a day-to-day basis by constituting a special court then the very purpose of revisiting it would be defeated, as the majority of the convicts are above 70 years of age, Jabbar said.

The then Union Carbide Corporation chief, Warren Anderson, is about 93 years of age, who is still absconding in the case, and others can never be brought to justice if the situation continues like this, he lamented.

In view of the above fact, we would file an appeal in the high court demanding fresh trial in the case under section 304 (II) by constituting a special court, Jabbar stated.

The first decision in the case was pronounced by the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) court on June 7, 2010, convicting eight people, including Keshub Mahindra, the then chairman of UCIL, and other senior officials - Vijay Gokhle, Kishore Kamdar, J Mukund, SP Choudhary, KV Shetty and SI Quereshi and RB Choudhary (died during trial).

The FIR in the tragedy was filed on December 3, 1984 and the case was transferred to CBI on December 6, 1984. The CBI filed the charge sheet after investigation on December 1, 1987.

The central agency had filed the revision petition after a hue and cry was raised following the trial court's June 7, 2010 order handing down two-year imprisonment to Keshub Mahindra among others, after finding them guilty under section 304-A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC.

Before filing the revision petition, a curative application was also filed in the Supreme Court in the matter following which the apex court directed the agency to approach the lower court.

After that, CBI had filed a revision petition in the sessions court seeking enhancement of sentence under section 304 (II) against Mahindra and other former officials of Union Carbide.

The district and sessions court also termed the decision of the CJM in the case as sufficient and added that no doubts can be raised on its working.

Thousands of people were killed and lakhs maimed following leak of a poisonous gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the intervening nights of December 2-3 in 1984.