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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid