Bhopal gas tragedy: SC reserves order on harsher punishment

Bhopal gas tragedy: SC reserves order on harsher punishment New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its judgement on the plea of CBI 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 S H Kapadia will pass its verdict over the petition seeking to recall the apex court's 14-year-old judgment that had diluted the charges against the accused who were prosecuted just for the offence of being negligent.

The bench, which also consisted of justices Altamas Kabir, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and Aftab Alam, asked the concerned parties to file their written submissions within a week in this case.

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 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 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 last 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, J N Mukund, then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, then Production Manager, K V Shetty, then Plant Superintendent and S I Quereshi, then Production Assistant were convicted and sentenced to two years' jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7 last year.

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.