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Two-year jail for accused in Bhopal gas case is less:CBI to SC

Two-year jail term to the convicts in Bhopal gas case is grossly disproportionate,the SC said.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi |
April 19, 2011 10:29:38 pm

Two-year jail term to the convicts in Bhopal gas tragedy case is grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the crime committed which left more than 15,000 people dead,CBI today told the Supreme Court while seeking a review of its judgement of diluting charges against the convicts.

“The judgement of September 13,1996,is oppressive to judicial conscience. It has caused manifest irremediable injustice. A horrendous crime was committed and the maximum punishment capable of being imposed under Section 304A (two year jail term) are grossly disproportionate to each other,” Attorney General G E Vahanvati told a five-judge constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice S H Kapadia.

He further said although there was a mistake on the part of investigating agency in approaching the court 16 years after the order was passed but the court cannot deny justice on this ground.

“It is a fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that crime and punishment must be related to each other in proportion to the gravity of the crime and its consequences. It is in public interest that punishment be commensurate to the gravity of the crime and its consequences,” he said.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by CBI seeking recall of the apex court’s 1996 judgement that had diluted the charges against the accused who were prosecuted just for the offence of being negligent.

“The judgement is completely vitiated by fundamental flaws which go to the root of the matter and vitiate the entire reasoning and conclusions leading to a complete and manifest failure of justice and irremedial injustice,” CBI said in its plea.

“Since criminal law serves a social function,it is important that the social message of the judgement be borne in mind. The case involves the worst industrial disaster in human history,corporate crime,corporate responsibility and the running of a plant in a manner that was palpably dangerous and unsafe,” it said.

The agency,which has sought restoration of charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder which attracts maximum 10 years jail term,said it was not an “ordinary case” in which delay in filing the curative petition will come in the way of providing justice to the victims of the disaster.

CBI’s curative petition faced opposition from the convicts who questioned its maintainability when the agency itself has moved the sessions court against the verdict of the trial court and even the appeals filed by the convicts are pending.

Senior advocate Harish Salve,appearing for the then Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra,who has been sentenced to two years jail term,said the case should be decided on the basis of law and not on the basis of facts.

“The criminal liability cannot be fixed in a curative petition,” he said while opposing CBI’s plea.

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