CBI seeks revision of '96 order in Bhopal gas tragedy

CBI seeks revision of '96 order in Bhopal gas tragedy

“It has caused manifestation of irremediable injustice. A horrendous crime was committed and the maximum punishment (two years) capable of being imposed under Section 304 A (causing death by negligent act) are grossly disproportionate to each other,” Attorney General G E Vahanvati submitted before a five-judge special Bench.

Concluding the arguments on behalf of the CBI in the curative petition, he said that the judgement delivered in 1996 was completely vitiated by fundamental flaws and was not in conformity with the principles of the Indian Penal Code that implied, the graver the crime, the severer the punishment should be.

He said: “Once the Supreme Court (in 1996) has passed a direction with regard to charges under Section 304 II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), it is  not possible for any other court to ignore that order.

The top law officer also said that since criminal law served a social function, it was important to keep in mind the social message of the judgement in the worst industrial disaster that had claimed lives of over 15,000 people following the leakage of poisonous gas in Union Carbide’s plant in Bhopal in December, 1984.

The curative petition was filed in the apex court after a Bhopal Court’s verdict awarding two years’ sentence to the then UCIL’s chairman Kushub Mahindra and six others last year sparked a nationwide outcry. The petition was filed seeking to rectify the error of the 1996 judgement since a review petition had already been dismissed by the apex court on March 10, 1997. Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha, appearing for Madhya Pradesh government submitted that if the apex court set aside its order it should direct constitution of a special Court for conducting the hearing in the case on day-to-day basis.

Advocate U U Lalit, appearing for the victims, sought to leave the issue of framing of charges under the relevant provisions of the law to the decision of the trial judge.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, on behalf of the accused, questioned the maintainability of the curative petition on the ground that the CBI had already filed the revision petition against trial court’s verdict convicting the seven accused and awarding the sentence.

Harish Salve is likely to resume his arguments on Wednesday.

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