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SC reopens Bhopal gas tragedy case

Last updated on: August 31, 2010 15:00 IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notices to all the accused in the Bhopal gas leak case on a petition by the Central Bureau of Investigation seeking to restore against them the stringent charge of culpable homicide, which attracts a maximum punishment of 10 years' jail term.

In the in-chamber proceedings, a bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Altamas Kabir and R V Raveendran sought response from the accused on the curative petition filed by the probe agency seeking recall of the apex court's 14-year-old judgement that had diluted the offence.

The court listed the matter for hearing after the completion of the service.

The petition, settled by Attorney General G E Vahanvati, has sought reconsideration of the September 13, 1996 apex court judgement which had diluted the charges against former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others.

"We have asked the court to reconsider the decision of the apex court which diluted the charges against the accused. We have sought a direction from the court to restore section 304 part-II of the IPC," advocate Devdatt Kamat, who drafted the over 500-page curative petition, had said.

Besides Mahindra, Vijay Gokhale, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, the then Vice President, J N Mukund, the then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, the then Production Manager, K V Shetty, the then Plant Superintendent and S I Quereshi, the then Production Assistant were convicted and sentenced to two years jail term by the trial court in Bhopal on June 7.

The trial court verdict had sparked an outrage with activists and political parties seeking an appeal against it, maintaining that they had been tried under a less provision of law for the tragedy that left 15,000 people dead and thousands maimed.

All the accused were tried under section 304A of the Indian Penal Code which attracts the maximum punishment of two years' imprisonment for causing death by rash and negligent act.

The charge under section 304 part-II was diluted to section 304A by the bench comprising the then Chief Justice A M Ahmadi and Justice S B Majmudar.

In the curative petition, the CBI said the 1996 verdict diluting charges suffered from serious errors.

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