News / Asia

Indian Court Rejects Harsher Sentences for Bhopal Disaster

Activists of All India Youth Federation raise slogans against America, Indian government and Warren Anderson, the head of Union Carbide Corp. at the time of the gas leak, during a candlelight vigil in New Delhi, India (File Photo)
Activists of All India Youth Federation raise slogans against America, Indian government and Warren Anderson, the head of Union Carbide Corp. at the time of the gas leak, during a candlelight vigil in New Delhi, India (File Photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Anjana Pasricha

India’s top court has turned down a plea to reopen a case aimed at getting a stronger punishment for those found guilty for the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people. The judgment has disappointed activists who have campaigning for more than a quarter century for stronger penalties for what is widely called the world’s worst industrial disaster.

Public outrage

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court refused a plea by the government to reinstate stronger charges against seven Indian employees of U.S. chemical firm Union Carbide, whose plant in Bhopal leaked toxic gases on sleeping residents 27 years ago.  

The two-year prison sentences handed down to them last year had triggered public outrage. Representatives for the victims complained those found guilty came off with relatively light punishments for a disaster that killed thousands and left tens of thousands more struggling with its consequences.

Bhopal victim activists say the seven men got away with light sentences because a 1996 court ruling had reduced the charge against them to the relatively minor one of death by negligence.    

After the government promised to seek harsher penalties, public prosecutors approached the top court last August to reopen the trial and restore the more serious charge of culpable homicide.    

But the Supreme Court has said the government has not given sufficient reason to build a case of culpable homicide. The court also questioned why the government waited for 14 years to reinstate the stronger charges.      

Victims speak out


Victims in Bhopal and activists expressed deep disappointment with the verdict.

Survivor Rasheeda Beehas, who been on the forefront of the fight for justice for the Bhopal victims, says it has been established that negligence of officials of the Union Carbide plant in India and the United States caused the disaster, and she had hoped that the Supreme Court would ensure that those guilty of causing so many deaths and so much suffering would get 20-year prison terms.

Rachna Dhingra is an activist with the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, which is working to rehabilitate victims and get speedier justice for them. She blames the government’s investigative agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, for mishandling the case.

“Here we are stuck with a prosecution that really has no interest, no competence in fighting this case," she said. "This attitude has to change.”

The activists and campaigners have promised to carry on their fight.

Seeking justice

The government says it is doing its best to see that justice is done. It has also filed a petition in the Supreme Court to seek higher compensation for the victims from Dow Chemical company, which bought Union Carbide in 2001.

Under the original compensation package, which was brokered in 1989, Union Carbide agreed to pay the Indian government $470 million in damages.

The Indian government says 3,500 people died in the days after the disaster. Activists put the toll at more than 20,000, pointing out that many have died in the years since from the lingering effects of the toxic leak.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More