Monday, February 28, 2011

SC notice to Dow, Eveready, UCC on Bhopal compensation

New Delhi: More than 26 years after poisonous gas leak killed 10,000 people and maimed over a lakh in Bhopal, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed to review its judgments in the criminal and civil cases, which allegedly helped the accused get away with light punishment and Union Carbide pay meagre compensation.
The court issued notices to Dow Chemicals, Union Carbide, Eveready Industries India ltd and McLeod Russel on the Centre’s plea seeking up to Rs 7,844 crore from them to pay additional compensation to the victims and their families.
The Centre wanted a review of the court’s 1989 judgment which supervised a settlement of $470 million between the Union government and Union Carbide towards compensation.
Six months ago, the court had asked the accused in the criminal case — Keshub Mahindra, V P Gokhale, Kishore Kamdar, J Mukund, S P Chaudhary, K V Shetty, S I Quereshi and Union Carbide India Limited — to respond to the CBI’s plea for fastening of the stringent Section 304-II Indian Penal Code charges against them.
The agency had sought review of the court’s 1996 judgment, which diluted the charges to Section 304-I of IPC dealing with rash and negligent act and attracting a maximum punishment of two years imprisonment. A person convicted under Section 304-II, which deals with the offence culpable homicide not amounting to murder, can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison.
On Monday, a Bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir, R V Raveendran, B Sudershan Reddy and Aftab Alam fast-tracked the hearing in both the curative petitions and said that on April 13 it would take up the criminal matter and complete the hearing in three days.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati said the Centre wanted to fasten liability on the companies for the damage to environment caused by leakage of harmful chemicals at Bhopal. The petition for enhanced compensation, drafted by advocate Devadatt Kamat, sought Rs 315 crore to fix the green problem.
Vahanvati also argued for transfer to the Supreme Court of a petition on the same issue pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. When Dow Chemical’s counsel Harish Salve opposed any interim order, the AG said he was not pressing for it. The court issued notice on the transfer plea.
The curative petition said the death toll and injuries taken into account by the SC to approve the $470 million settlement was way off the mark as the figures increased dramatically over the years. Public outrage over the June 7, 2010, trial court judgment convicting the accused but sentencing them to two years imprisonment under Section 304A had made the government take a decision to file a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court’s 1996 judgment diluting the charges.

No comments:

Post a Comment