"Justice is like a train that is nearly always late" commented Yevtushenko  but in the instant case it appears, with thousands of eyes agonizingly waiting for it, has failed to arrive at all, we are talking about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
The organ entrusted with the dispensation of Justice-the Judiciary in our country has acted as the savior of common man & in a country characterized by social conditions such as ours, is perhaps the only institution left that still commands great respect & inspires confidence across different sections of the society, measuring up remarkably well on the scales of reliability, and has have had a strong reputation of coming to the rescue of hapless and helpless on occasions countless.
But has it failed the hopes of the common man, as a custodian of human rights ? the question has assumed immense proportions in light of the recent judgment in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy [the worst industrial disaster till date] delivered by Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal thereby convicting former chairman of UC's India arm, Keshub Mahindra, and six others guilty under bailable sections of the Indian Penal Code, co-accused & sentenced them to two years in prison. All were charged under sections 304(A) (death by negligence), 336 (endangering life & safety), 337 (causing hurt) and 338 (grievous hurt) and not S.304-II of the IPC, as the Supreme Court itself had watered down the charges way back in 1996, this raises serious questions as to which need to be enquired with urgency, as the same can have far reaching consequences on the credibility of the entire justice delivery system, which prides itself of maintaining high standards of independence & utmost fairness.
What happened that fateful night December 2nd,1982 was the worst industrial catastrophe in the world had ever seen, it happened when a large amount of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) spewed out of Union Carbide Factory in Bhopal, affected 36 municipal wards of Bhopal, and estimated number of exposed persons at 5,59,835 , resulting in 3,787 immediate deaths, and 8,000-10,000 dying within 72 hours, and 25,000 dying since the accident, speaks volumes about the horrors of the incident, but in a case which so speaks for itself, the stupor with which the entire system has worked is unpardonable, and the way accused have been allowed to go away scot free with impunity, has added insult to injury to the people of Bhopal, already suffering hell, owing to lack of medical attention, with toxic waste still polluting their lives. The case from the very inception was dealt by in a lackadaisical manner by the government & the investigating agencies alike.
Miscarriage of Justice: The governmental, investigative & beauracratic lapses
The vices of the rich and great are mistaken for error; and those of the poor and lowly, for crimes., The half-hearted prosecution in the instant case, bears testimony to the very saying, with chargesheet being filed in 1987, more than 5 years after the accident. Lack of potency in prosecution of those accused led to the reduction of the charges by the Supreme Court in 1996 from S.304 Part II of the IPC to Section 304-A “even assuming it was a defective plant,” the court rules “and it was dealing with a very toxic and hazardous substances like MIC, the mere act of storing such a material could not even prima facie suggest that the concerned accused thereby had knowledge that there were likely to cause death of human beings.” the Hon’ble Court perhaps failed to take into account that such accidents in the factory had happened previously too, some time before the accident, and local newspapers had highlighted the volcano on which the entire city was resting, a volcano ready to erupt anytime, on account of which the accused could have been clearly be attributed with the knowledge of likelihood of such an incident, but alas the Hon’ble Court took a different stand.
The fact that CBI did not apply for review of the aforesaid judgment, speaks volumes about & is further substantiated by the Activists who argue that CBI kept only the interest of the multinational in mind while arguing the case, which in turn, too apparently was under pressure from the government, Officials who were in charge of gas tragedy probe have maintained that the central government was never serious about trying Warren Anderson, in Court. Many officials have come up recently speaking out against governmental pressure exerted to water down the matter. All sorts of Scandalous things are coming up, which for sure is just the tip of the iceberg, as to the suppression of Medical Data grossly under-telling the severity of the accident, & its result thereof, with many more skeletons still hidden in dark cupboards of bureaucracy/government, one can seriously anticipate the worst is yet to come.
The Hon’ble Law Minister has termed the decision as ‘delayed justice’ qualifying the term justice with delay, but albeit forgetting that justice to be rightly called so, and be worthy of its name, should be adequate, & quantum of punishment in consonance with the gravity of the situation. Our constitutional structure so tightly interwoven with the edicts of rule of law, envisage equality before law, but the government most apparently, in power then, and successive government have failed to show mettle, even after maintaining relations with the States for so many years, cowering under its pressure, too afraid to take any concrete steps for extradition of the prime accused Warren Anderson.
Apportioning blame, is not what we mean to do, but the miscarriage of a justice that we as a system have succeeded in delivering to thousands who suffered on that fateful night, would not have been possible, but for the united efforts on the part of every department every government, including successors thereto, working mercilessly to dilute/water down the charges, dropping of charges on acceptance of an amount of 470 million dollars as compensation by the government (grossly insufficient and less than 1/7th of the claimed amount), the way in which the prime accused Warren Anderson, the chairman of Union Carbide, was practically bon-voyaged in a charter plan of MP Government, all the way to the luxuries of his New York mansion, never to return again, all lead to the conclusion that the entire system worked in unison to what can be termed as a complete ‘sell-out’ driven by motives – clandestine.
The hospitality being enjoyed by Mr.Devanand, a proclaimed offender, came here as a part of a Sri Lankan delegation, & the VIP protocol being employed, speaks volumes as to how effective our law is, in dealing with influential people.
Indeed much has been said already about the delays associated with our criminal justice system, but Twenty six years is too long a time, especially when all that is secured to the people is a grossly insufficient judgment in the name of ‘justice’. 3,000 documents & 178 Prosecution witnesses later, of what rightly termed as a travesty of justice, the gravity & magnanimity of the accident which took affected thousands of lives, has just been equated to that of a traffic accident, as all the eight accused have been booked under Section 304-A, commonly & frequently brought into use in traffic accident cases, & as the offences were bailable, the accused were promptly granted bail. Appeal would lie to the High Court. The Government under pressure from activists and wanting to gain brownie points amongst the victims & their families, has promised to move for enhancement of sentence on behalf of the people of Bhopal.
But it is not very hard to expect what it may lead to, or would reach the same feat, as the earlier decisions. It is indeed very hard to speculate or introspect into the factors which may have driven the judiciary the Hon’ble Supreme Court & the District Court, to deal with a crime, with consequences so horrific with such undue leniency & perhaps unkind to blame the latter for handling out such a mild punishment, for the court’s decision to frame charges against them under 304-II of the IPC was set aside the Apex Court itself on September 13,1996, but the complete disregard of the basic principle of natural justice ‘Justice must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done.", have failed the hopes of the thousands, The lack of potency, our government & investigating agencies have projected in the prosecution of the accused & in failure to secure extradition of the prime accused, raises serious queries as to the how miniscule & insignificant the cost of human lives becomes, when pitted against a huge corporation, Might is Right is manifest from the government actions, particularly when the corporate entity belongs to a powerful state such as US.
The entire system stands emasculated, grossly compromising on the interests of the people, the Such governmental policies & the grossly inappropriate judgment needs urgent review, more so in context of latest Civil Nuclear Liability Bill which seeks to limits the liability of the operator to grossly insufficient amounts & when the government has diluted one of the most important sections of the Bill. Namely S.17(b) which provides the right to recourse to victims, under huge pressure from US, thereby excluding foreign suppliers of liability even if guilty of negligence, meaning thereby if god forbid any such accident happens again, which naturally would be even more disastrous, the remedy available to the people would be grossly curtailed.
The Denial of Victim’s Right to Justice, by the approach adopted by the government & prosecuting agencies facilitating the culprit to kill thousands get away with impunity & sadly the judicial decision in question, whichever way one looks at it, is nothing but a betrayal of the people.
 Bharat Chugh: Advocate Supreme Court
 A Russian Poet
 Data from:MP Government’s Gas Relief Ministry, real number of people exposed to gas far more.
 By Lady Marguerite Blessington