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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs