Ahmadi rejects criticism of dilution of charges

The former Chief Justice of India, A.H. Ahmadi, on Tuesday rejected criticism of dilution of charges against Union Carbide executives in the Bhopal gas tragedy case, saying that in criminal law there was no concept of vicarious liability.

He regretted that there was an absence of laws to deal with disasters of the Bhopal kind, adding the law could be amended to provide for adequate punishment.

Justice Ahmadi — who in 1996 headed a Bench that converted the CBI charge under Section 304(II) of the Indian Penal Code which provided for a maximum of 10-year imprisonment, to Section 304A with a maximum of two years' imprisonment — said it was easy for people to make allegations, but judges had to work under the system.

“One has to work within the system, within the framework of law. It is easy to speak today, to swing with the tide,” he said, reacting to criticism that the Bench's decision led to the light punishment given by a Bhopal court on Monday.

“There is no concept of vicarious liability. If my driver is driving and meets with a fatal accident, I don't become liable to be prosecuted under Section 304(II).”

There was no concept of vicarious liability in criminal law, except that “if there is an abetment, the abettor may be joined with the principal offender. If there is a common intention situation or conspiracy situation, that is understandable. Otherwise no.”

Justice Ahmadi said he was not claiming he was right. “We can go wrong but there are remedies. If I had made a mistake, then there was ample time for people to get it reviewed. The CBI could have got it reviewed and the NGOs could have got it. Why not? It only goes to show that the decision was correct.”

“If there is no charge under 304A and was only under 304(II), if that charge was not accepted as proved, even under 304A, they would have gone free. So I think you must understand the proper legal situation. Maybe we are unhappy about the quantum of punishment.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 7:55:53 AM |

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