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Supreme Court questions CBI over delay on Bhopal gas victims plea

April 13, 2011 - New Delhi

The Supreme court on Wednesday questioned the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for approaching it 16 years after it had diluted in the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the accused in the Bhopal gas tragedy case.

A five-judge special bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia raised the question on delay and asked the CBI as to why it had not filed the review petition during all these years.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati, appearing for the CBI said, "I don't know why it was not filed by the CBI but a review petition was filed in the case by someone else and it was dismissed."

He said there was a series of illegal omissions on the part of the accused from 1982 onward which led to that disaster.

He further said there was serious security default besides a default in the design in the plant which led to the disaster.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by the CBI seeking to recall the apex court's 14-year-old judgement that had diluted the charges against the accused who were prosecuted just for the offence of being negligent.

The petition filed by CBI sought restoration of the stringent charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder instead of death caused due to negligence against the accused.

The Supreme court had on August 31 last year reopened the Bhopal gas leak case and issued notices to all the accused on the basis of a petition filed by the CBI seeking to restore against them the stringent charge of culpable homicide, which attracts a maximum punishment of ten years jail term.

In in-chamber proceedings, a bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir and R V Raveendran sought response from the accused on the curative petition filed by the CBI, which wanted a reconsideration of the 1996 judgement, which diluted charges against former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others.

In the early hours of December 3, 1984, around 40 metric tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked into the atmosphere and was carried by the wind to the surrounding slums.

The government says around 3,500 died because of the disaster. Activists however calculate that 25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and the years that followed.


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