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Bhopal Gas Tragedy survivors protest, call May 11 as ‘Black Day’ for Justice

Thursday May 12, 2011 01:57:57 PM, Pervez Bari,

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Bhopal: For the survivors and victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster, along with for the NGOs working for their welfare the Supreme Court’s Order rejecting the curative petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, (CBI), has come as a rude shock and shaken them out of reverie.

The Supreme Court Order has jolted the survivors of the tragedy to the extent that they believe that justice has become a rare commodity and is totally out of reach for them in their life time. The survivors called may 11, 2011 as “Black Day” for justice.

It may be pointed out here that the CBI's petition had challenged its 1996 verdict that had diluted charges against the accused, then United Carbide India Ltd., (UCIL), chairman Keshub Mahindra, and six others for causing death due to negligence. A government lawsuit had called for the seven company executives convicted last year of negligence to be tried on a more serious charge of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder," which carries a jail term of 10 years. But the bid was rejected.

"The curative petition is based on a plea that is wrong and fallacious," a five-judge bench in the top court said, adding that "no satisfactory explanation" had been given for filing the petition after so long.

As a mark of protest and to express their ire against the court order the survivors led by the representatives of five NGOs took out a "Mashal" (torch-light) rally on Wednesday night. The survivors while participating in the rally rent the air with slogans against the CBI and the Government while calling the court Order a travesty of justice. The survivors vent their spleen in castigating the investigating agencies, government of the day and even the judiciary over the years for their pathetic plight as they have been leading a life that of a “living” dead.

The rally started from Sindhi Colony and culminated in front of the statue of a woman victim with her dead child in her hands opposite now defunct Union Carbide pesticide factory which had rained death more than 26 years ago on thousands of people in Bhopal. The survivors carried placards and banners with inscriptions such as “Nahin Sahenge Yah Annayay”; “We will not tolerate this injustice”; “Killer Keshub must go to jail for life” etc.

Meanwhile, earlier in the morning at a hurriedly convened Press conference the crest-fallen representatives of five NGOs namely Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Children Against Dow Carbide and Bhopal Group for Information & Action expressed their dismay and disapproval at the Supreme Court Order. The Order has poured cold water over their expectations and Supreme Court has no sympathy with them, they moaned.

“May 11, 2011 will go down as another black day for justice”, Bhopal survivor organisations said in reaction to the Supreme Court's order. “Further to the dismissal of the appeal filed by three Bhopal organisations against Justice Ahmadi's controversial 1996 order, the Supreme Court today has heaped yet more injustice on the Bhopal victims,” the five organisations said.

In 1996, the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition filed by three survivor organisations without conducting even one hearing. The petition was against Justices Ahmadi’s order that quashed the charge of culpable homicide and instituted a charge of death caused by negligence against the Indian accused.

They said that today's Supreme Court order is problematic on many counts. First, by saying that the 1996 SC order was not binding on the trial court, it expects a lower court to act against a specific order of the Supreme Court. This presumption is entirely contrary to the universal practice of the courts. FIRs quashed by the Supreme Court are never reborn by magisterial acts. More importantly, the Supreme Court has ignored the irremediable injustice suffered by the victims through the practical effect of the 1996 judgment.

Second, it has dismissed survivors' prayers along with CBI's petitions on grounds that the CBI had neither sought revision of the 1996 order, nor provided sufficient explanation for the delay of almost 14 years. However, it has made no comment on the merits of the survivors' review petition of 1996 given that their petition had been dismissed without a hearing.

“The accused are yet to spend a single day in jail, while 25,000 victims have been condemned to death with lakhs more suffering. The Supreme Court has allowed the accused to take advantage of the Government's lapses,” said Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

The organizations pointed out that the Supreme Court has itself proclaimed in the case of Zahira Sheikh that where prosecution fails in providing justice, the apex court could step in. “Nothing could qualify better as a failure of prosecution than the Bhopal case, why didn’t the Supreme Court step in do justice in Bhopal?” asked an irate Rashida Bi, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh.

According to the Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information & Action, Keshub Mahindra and other Indian officials have committed mass murders in Bhopal. They point to documentary evidence that establish that these officials knew that the MIC plant design sent by Union Carbide, USA in 1973 was based on “untested. technology”.


They said that in 1977 these officials planned and implemented cost cutting measures that made the hazardously designed plant even more unsafe. In 1982 Keshub Mahindra and others ignored the findings of Union Carbide safety audit that pointed out that there were 30 spots in the factory where a major disaster could occur.

“If Keshub Mahindra and other accused get away with a two years jail sentence, the lives and health of the ordinary people of this country will never be secure from corporate crime”, said Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha.

Meanwhile, in this matter, Madhya Pradesh government has also moved the apex court seeking its permission to intervene in the petition filed by CBI to re-examine September 1996 judgment 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 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, 2010, decided to re-examine its own judgment 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, JN Mukund, then works manager, S. P. Choudhary, then production manager, K. V. Shetty, then plant superintendent and S. I. Qureshi, then production assistant were convicted and sentenced to two years' jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7, 2010.

It may be recalled here that in the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing factory had spewed poisonous Methyl Iso-cyanate gas whereby 3000 people had perished virtually instantly and over the years about 25000 have kissed death and the sad saga is still continuing uninterruptedly. About half a million are suffering from the side effects of the poisonous gas and several thousand people have been maimed for life.






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