Bhopal gas tragedy: Ex-CJI caught on the wrong foot
Former Chief Justice of India AM Ahmadi had said on Tuesday that those unhappy with his 1996 decision in Bhopal gas leak case could have got it reviewed. HT has learnt a review plea was filed, which Ahmadi himself dismissed on March 10, 1997, a fortnight before he retired. Nagendar Sharma reports.india Updated: Jun 11, 2010 00:23 IST
The ghost of the Bhopal gas tragedy has come back to haunt the judge whose ruling is being seen as having helped the accused get away with a lightweight sentence.
<b1>Criticised for diluting the charges against the accused Union Carbide officials so they could be tried on a lesser charge, former Chief Justice of India AM Ahmadi had said on Tuesday that those unhappy with his 1996 decision could have got it reviewed.
HT has learnt a review plea was filed, which Ahmadi himself dismissed on March 10, 1997, a fortnight before he retired. When this was pointed out, he retorted: “One person says he filed a review; thousands of petitions come before the court. How do you expect me to remember a particular petition?”
Ahmadi is also the lifetime head of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, built from money provided by Union Carbide on the Supreme Court’s orders. Asked about the conflict of interest allegations against him on this count, Ahmadi said he was ready to quit. “Thrice in the past, I have told the CJIs to relieve me… But what is the conflict of interest, please explain?”
The accused had moved Supreme Court in 1996 against a CBI chargesheet in a Bhopal court to try them under Section 304-II of the Indian Penal Code — culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which comes with a 10-year jail term. On September 13, a Supreme Court bench of Justices Ahmadi and SB Majumdar ruled that the evidence provided by the CBI was sufficient only to try them under Section 304-A (death due to negligence).
The review petition was filed by an NGO, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti.
"On November 29, 1996, we filed the review, placing on record more evidence to prove the culpability of Carbide officials, and requested the court to recall its earlier order,” said ND Jayaprakash, co-convenor of the organization.
“To refresh the memory of Justice Ahmadi, let me tell him that on March 10, 1997, he dismissed the petition in a minute in a single-line order.”