26 years, still no justice, say Bhopal survivors, activists (Lead)

May 11th, 2011 - 5:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Bhopal, May 11 (IANS) Shock and disbelief were writ large on the faces of activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy whose hopes were dashed when the Supreme Court Wednesday rejected the CBI plea for more stringent punishment to the seven accused.

Many squarely blamed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for failing to defend the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster that originated at the now shut Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, killing at least 3,000 people on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984 and many thousands later.

“We are not demanding charity, we are demanding justice which has not been done in 26 years,” Abdul Jabbar, a indignant survivor and convenor of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan, told IANS.

“An incident took place and thousands died. The whole world is watching. What would be the message? How is the Indian government and judiciary responsible for citizens?

“All this is happening because the gas tragedy victims are poor,” he said in a tone tinged with disgust and anger.

The apex court Wednesday dismissed the CBI’s petition challenging its 1996 verdict that had diluted charges against the accused - then Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others - for causing death due to negligence.

“Why will the gas victims have to suffer again and again because of the faults of the government and CBI? The judgment is shocking. In fact during trial it seemed something good would come in the verdict, but the result remains zero,” Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action told reporters in Bhopal.

Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action told IANS: “The CBI was never interested in fighting for the gas victims, and did not take help from us.

“It is we who have been fighting against the 1996 Supreme Court verdict. The CBI only woke up after pressure from the group of ministers (GoM) and put a curative petition after 14 years.”

“The order shows that even the judiciary is not with the victims, and they are made to suffer for a fault of the CBI,” she said.

The charges against the accused were diluted by the apex court by its Sep 13, 1996 judgment. They were convicted by a Bhopal court last year under the less stringent provision of causing death due to negligence, carrying a maximum punishment of two years in jail.

The CBI had moved the apex court, seeking direction of the framing of charges against Mahindra and others for culpable homicide not amounting to murder that attracts the maximum imprisonment of 10 years.

But the apex court rejected the plea. The apex court also said the 1996 judgment in no way shackled the trial court in Madhya Pradesh from framing charges under the stringent provisions of the criminal procedure court.

“The Supreme Court decision says the lower court can take cognizance of its own. But if trial takes place like it has happened till now, it will take 15 more years to come to a conclusion. The Bhopal case should be treated like 26/11 terror attack. Day-to-day hearings should take place,” Dhingra said.

N.D. Jayaprakash, co-convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti, said: “We want the Madhya Pradesh government to set up a special court and pursue the case on a priority basis, possibly within the next six months the entire retrial must end.”

The Union Carbide disaster, in which lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the plant, killed 3,000 people instantly and 25,000 over the years. It also affected 100,000 people and estimates are that more than 500,000 continue to suffer from ill effects of the gas till date.

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