A day after the Supreme Court rejected its curative petitions, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government said it would ask the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to move the sessions court in Bhopal for an early hearing of its revision application and appeal filed by the Madhya Pradesh government to seek graver punishment for the accused in the Bhopal gas tragedy case.
“This is not the end of the road,” stressed Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram as he addressed the first briefing organised by the new Group of Ministers (GoM) on the media here on Thursday.
Clearly not discouraged by the court's rejection of the curative petitions, filed last year after the Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal case decided that legal steps be taken to punish the accused for graver charges under the law, Mr. Chidambaram said the CBI's revision application and the appeal filed by the Madhya Pradesh government in the sessions court in Bhopal to try the accused for graver charges under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) should be pursued vigorously.
In support of this line of action, he underscored the fact that the Supreme Court had, in its judgment of Wednesday, observed that “the criminal revisions filed by the CBI and Madhya Pradesh the legal position are correctly stated.”
Referring to the GoM on the Bhopal case, the Minister said the curative petitions had been filed in the Supreme Court on the basis of Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati's advice that there was “sufficient ground” to do so.
Asked why the government had taken so long to file the curative petitions, he said that when a review petition was filed on behalf of certain affected parties against the Supreme Court's judgment of 1996, it was dismissed. At that time there was no scope for filing a curative petition because the law relating to curative petitions was laid down much later in 2002.
UPA alone not responsible
However, while acknowledging that the public outcry last year against the paltry punishment given to the accused pushed the government to file the curative petitions against the 1996 judgment, Mr. Chidambaram said the UPA government could not be singled out as responsible for the delay. He said that since 1996, several governments, representing virtually all major political parties, had ruled at the Centre. “In a sense, therefore, “all governments since 1996 are responsible for the delay in moving the Supreme Court.”