Supreme Court clarifies after dismissing CBI's curative petitions in Bhopal case

The Supreme Court, while dismissing the two curative petitions filed by the CBI in the Bhopal gas leak case of 1984, said on Wednesday: “It is wrong to assume that its 1996 judgment is a fetter against the proper exercise of powers by a court of competent jurisdiction under the relevant provisions of the Cr.PC” to correct the mistake.

Constant refrain

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia said: “In the 1996 judgment, this court was at pains to make it absolutely clear that its findings were based on materials gathered in investigation and brought before the court till that stage. At every place in the judgment where the court records the finding or makes an observation in regard to the appropriate charge against the accused, it qualifies the finding or the observation by saying ‘on the materials produced by the prosecution for framing charge.' ‘At this stage' is a kind of constant refrain in that judgment.”

The Bench said: “The 1996 judgment was rendered at the stage of Sections 209/228/240 of the Cr.PC and we are completely unable to see how the judgment can be read to say that it removed from the Code Sections 323, 216, 386, 397, 399, 401, etc, or denuded a competent court of the powers under those provisions.”

The CBI filed the criminal revision in the Bhopal sessions court only in August 2010 after the curative petitions had been filed, the Bench pointed out.

In these appeals/revision, though belatedly filed, the correct legal position was asserted.

Pointing out that no satisfactory explanation had been given for filing the curative petitions after 14 years, the Bench dismissed them. It, however, made it clear that nothing stated herein should be construed as an expression of any view or opinion on the merits of the matters pending before the sessions judge, Bhopal.