The Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday two curative petitions filed by the CBI and the Union government in the Bhopal gas tragedy case.
In the first curative plea, notice had been issued as to why the charge of Indian Penal Code Section 304 B (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) not be added against the accused in the criminal appeal pending in the Madhya Pradesh High Court against the June 2010 trial court verdict sentencing them to two-year imprisonment.
Notices were issued to the former Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) Chairman, Keshub Mahindra; UCIL Managing Director, Vijay Gokhale; the then vice-president, Kishore Kamdar; the then works manager, J.N. Mukund; the then production manager, S.P. Choudhary; the then plant superintendent, K.V. Shetty; and the then production assistant, S.I. Quereshi.
In the second curative petition, the Centre has sought enhancement of compensation of $470 million already paid to the victims. The court is also to hear a writ petition on adjudication of liabilities of the Dow Chemicals, the UCCL and Eveready Industries India in respect of environmental degradation caused due to the gas leakage from the UCIL plant in Bhopal in 1984.
A Constitution Bench consisting of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir, R.V. Raveendran, B. Sudershan Reddy and Aftab Alam will hear arguments on these curative petitions. The CBI and the Centre had contended that failure of justice in awarding adequate punishment to the accused had affected not only the victims but also society and the nation as a whole. The CBI wanted the charge of IPC Section 304 B restored against the accused, Keshub Mahindra and others, including the UCIL, who were let off by the Bhopal trial court in June with a minor punishment of two years for an offence under IPC Section 304 A (negligence).
The second curative petition sought a review of the May 4, 1989 and October 3, 1991 orders, contending that the 1989 settlement was seriously impaired.
“Since the said amount is being claimed in 2010 [as on the date of the petition], several aspects such as devaluation of the rupee, interest rate, purchasing power parity and the inflation index have to be factored in while computing the claim amount.” So the total would come to Rs. 5,786 crore.
In addition, Rs. 1743.15 crore for relief and rehabilitation, which Madhya Pradesh undertook due to the tort by the UCIL and the Union Carbide Corporation and other respondents, had to be reimbursed on the ‘polluter pays' principle. The petition also claimed Rs. 315.7 crore towards measures for remedying environmental degradation caused by the respondents.