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Bhopal tragedy: CBI moves SC for stringent charge against accused

New Delhi, August 2
The CBI today moved the Supreme Court seeking to restore the stringent charge of culpable homicide, which attracts the maximum punishment of 10 years of jail term, against the accused in Bhopal gas leak case by recalling its 14-year-old judgment that had diluted the offence.

A curative petition, cleared by Attorney General GE Vahanvati, said there was a “gross miscarriage” of justice in the case and sought reconsideration of the September 13, 1996, apex court judgment, which had whittled down the charge to causing death due to rash and negligent act against former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others.

“We have asked the court to reconsider the decision of the apex court, which diluted the charges against the accused. We have sought a direction from the court to restore section 304 part-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC,” said advocate Devadatt Kamat, who drafted the over 500-page curative petition.

Besides Mahindra, then managing director of UCIL Vijay Gokhale, then vice president Kishore Kamdar, then works manager JN Mukund, then production manager SP Choudhary, then plant superintendent KV Shetty and then production assistant SI Quereshi were convicted and sentenced to two years of jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7.

The trial court verdict had sparked an outrage with the society activists and political parties seeking an appeal against it, maintaining the accused had been tried under a less stringent provision of law for the tragedy that left over 15,000 people dead and thousands maimed.

All accused were tried under Section 304A of the IPC, which attracts a maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment for causing death by rash and negligent act. The charge under Section 304 part-II was diluted to Section 304A by the bench, comprising then Chief Justice AM Ahmadi and Justice SB Majumdar. The CBI, which described the case as one of the rarest of rare cases, said the apex court should invoke its inherent power in public interest to address and remedy errors apparent on the face of record in the judgment and order of September 13, 1996.

The apex court had on March 10, 1997, also dismissed the petition filed by an NGO, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti, seeking a review of its 1996 judgement diluting the charge. — PTI





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