Despite the shock and outrage over the apparently lenient punishment of just two years given to those convicted in the Bhopal gas tragedy, there is little that can be done to enhance it, legal experts say.
Options before the victims and the CBI are limited, because it was the Supreme Court that diluted the charges against the Indian accused in September 1996 on the ground that culpability lay with the Union Carbide Corporation.
In such a situation, a sessions or high court can’t enhance the punishment. The only possible option could be to file a petition seeking a review of the SC order diluting the charges against the accused. If the SC does review its verdict, the accused can be tried under Section 304 part-II of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for culpable homicide not amounting to murder that entails a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment.
The trial court awarded the maximum sentence to the convicts under Section 304-A and other provisions of the IPC dealing with death due to negligence. Grant of bail is also in tune with the legal provisions.
The punishment, though legally tenable, isn’t commensurate with the gravity of the offence that involves the death of over 15,000 innocent people.