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Supreme Court sore over delay in Bhopal gas tragedy case


Cites Dickensian reference to century-old civil dispute


New Delhi: Taking a dig at the slow pace of judicial proceedings, the Supreme Court has said it would perhaps take another 25 years before the Bhopal gas tragedy case is decided by it, by which time the victims would be dead.

“It took the trial court 25 years to decide the case. It will then come on appeal in the High Court where it will drag on for another 15 years. After that, it will come to the Supreme Court where it will go on for another 10 years. By that time, the victims will all be dead.”

Justice Markandeya Katju, heading a Bench which included Justice T.S. Thakur, made the observation while expressing ire at the protracted delay in the disposal of the cases as litigants/advocates take undue advantage of the loopholes in the legal system.

Citing a reference made in a Charles Dickens novel to a civil dispute involving two families, Jarndis vs. Jarndis, which dragged on for over a century, the Bench said: “In that case, the matter dragged on for 100 years, several generations had died. The descendants, the advocates and the judges were not aware what the case was about but they were fighting it.

“India is also becoming like that. Cases keep dragging.”

The Bench was dealing with a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in a 24-year-old civil dispute.

“This is a 24-year-old case and you are filing an SLP!” the Bench said while refusing to entertain the case.

On August 2, the CBI had moved the Supreme Court seeking restoration of the stringent charge of culpable homicide, which attracts a maximum punishment of a 10-year jail term, against the accused in the Bhopal gas leak case.

It has urged the Court to recall its judgement against former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others, which diluted the offence in the 1984 incident to the charge of causing death due to a rash and negligent act.

Besides Mahindra, other officials at the time — Vijay Gokhale, Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, Vice President, J.N. Mukund, Works Manager, S.P. Choudhary, Production Manager, K.V. Shetty, Plant Superintendent and S.I. Qureshi, Production Assistant — were convicted and sentenced to a two-year jail term by a trial court in Bhopal on June 7.

The trial court verdict sparked an outrage and civil society activists and political parties sought an appeal against it, maintaining that the accused had been tried under a less stringent provision of law. — PTI

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