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”
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
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
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