The Supreme Court will examine on Tuesday the petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seeking to restore the stringent charge of culpable homicide, which attracts the maximum punishment of 10 years jail term, against the accused in Bhopal gas leak case.
The curative petition filed by the agency has sought recalling of Supreme Court’s 14-year-old judgment that had diluted the offence.
The petition is listed for in-chamber proceedings before a three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice S. H. Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir and R. V. Raveendra.
The three senior most judges of the court will examine the petition, cleared by Attorney General G. E. Vahanvati, in which the CBI has said there was a “gross miscarriage” of justice in the case.
The agency has sought reconsideration of the September 13, 1996, Supreme Court judgment which had whittled down the charge to causing death due to rash and negligent act against former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others.
“We have asked the court to reconsider the decision of the apex court which diluted the charges against the accused. We have sought a direction from the court to restore section 304 part-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC,” advocate Devadatt Kamat, who drafted the over 500-page curative petition, said.
Besides Mahindra, Vijay Gokhale, the then managing director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, the then vice- president, J. N. Mukund, the then works manager, S. P. Choudhary, the then production manager, K. V. Shetty, the then plant superintendent and S. I. Qureshi, the then production assistant were convicted and sentenced to two years jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7.
The trial court verdict had sparked an outrage with civil society activists and political parties seeking an appeal against it, maintaining the accused had been tried under a less stringent provision of law for the tragedy that left over 15,000 people dead.
All the accused were tried under section 304A of Indian Penal Code which attracts a maximum punishment of two years’ imprisonment for causing death by a rash and negligent act.
The charge under section 304 part-II was diluted to section 304A by a bench comprising the then Chief Justice A. M. Ahmadi and Justice S. B. Majmudar.