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)


    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

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    This forum has been closed.
    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.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.