The Union Government has asked Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court in the Bhopal gas leak case,asking it to set aside the 1996 judgment of a Bench headed by then chief justice of India A M Ahmadi,which had ordered the CBI to water down the charges against the accused.
The Law Ministry has reportedly instructed that the petition be filed at the earliest,possibly before the end of this month.
Sources said the AG has also been asked to file a curative petition seeking enhancement of the $470 million compensation from Union Carbide Corporation settled by the Supreme Court.
Following the uproar over the minor punishment two years in jail awarded to the seven accused,including former Union Carbide of India (UCIL) chairman Keshub Mahindra,by a Bhopal court on June 7,a group of ministers (GoM) constituted by the Centre had recommended filing of a curative petition. This petition would seek to get the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder,which carries a maximum imprisonment of 10 years,reinstated in the chargesheet.
The 1996 SC order had watered this down to causing death by negligence,which carries a maximum punishment of two years.
The curative petition,which is being drafted by advocates Dev Dutt Kamat and Rohit Sharma,would reportedly ask the Court to reinstate the original charges against the accused,arguing that the 1996 judgment had erroneously diluted them.
In order to buttress its stand,the Centre would tell the SC that while the Bench headed by Ahmadi had observed that the Bhopal plant was being run as per permissions granted to UCIL,it had also pointed out that the management and staff were aware of defects in the plant. These included both structural defects as well as operational deficiencies.
Another important contention of the Centre would be that analysis of evidence has brought out the fact that the 1996 Bench wasnt completely aware of the entire evidence. This includes testimonies of key witnesses,particularly UCIL employees.
Some witnesses admitted in court that the UCIL management had refused to take heed of warnings about leaking pipes in the Bhopal plant and,instead,used stop-gap measures to plug the leaks.
The petition cites the statement of prosecution witness K K Parekh,who told the Bhopal court about the lackadaisical attitude of the UCIL management.
Apart from the Centre,the Madhya Pradesh government has also decided to file a curative petition against the 1996 judgment.