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Justice Ahmadi defends his appointment as BMHT chairman
Thursday, June 10, 2010 08:21:47 PM, UNI
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New Delhi: After defending the Bhopal Gas Tragedy verdict, former Chief Justice of India A M Ahmadi today justified his appointment as 'chairman for life' of Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust (BMHT) which runs a 350-bed super specialty hospital in Bhopal.
The hospital was set up after the Supreme Court in 1991 asked the Union Carbide to pay up for its liability in the industrial disaster and help in setting up a world-class hospital so that the victims could get adequate relief. Soon after he retired in 1997, Justice Ahmadi was appointed life chairman of the hospital.
His appointment had raised many eyebrows as it was he who in 1996 headed a Bench that converted the CBI charge under Section 304(II) of the Indian Penal Code which provided for a maximum imprisonment of 10-years to Section 304A with a maximum of two years' imprisonment He, however, today strongly defended his appointment and dismissed all criticism of conflict of interest.
''I was appointed by the Supreme Court, and there was no conflict of interest invloved in the matter,'' he told a TV channel.
Justice Ahmadi has also rejected criticism of dilution of charges against Union Carbide executives in the case, arguing that in criminal law there was no concept of vicarious liability. At present there was an absence of laws to deal with disasters of the Bhopal kind, he had said. He said it was easy for people to make allegations, but judges had to work under the system. The former CJI said it was easy to swing with the tide but the fact was that one could not transgress the boundaries of the system and the law.
He has also countered the claim that he rejected a review petition in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case.
N D Prakash, the person who filed the review petition, has said that he did so on behalf of Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti on November 29, 1996, but Justice Ahmadi rejected the petition in March 1997, which could be verified from court records. ''In fact, he rejected it even without going through the merits in the case,'' he said.
However, Justice Ahmadi said, "I do not know about any review petition, including ND Prakash's petition in the Bhopal case. I do not recollect the filing of the said review petition. Review petitions are usually similar and thus dismissed. You can't hold people vicariously liable. It's not that a judge is always right.
It's because it's the final word that we're right." On Monday, after over 25 years of trial, eight people were convicted for the world's worst industrial disaster and sentenced to two years in prison. The Bhopal Gas tragedy of December 2-3, 1984 had claimed the lives of about 20,000 people.
All those convicted, however, got bail the same day itself. Mahindra & Mahindra chief and former Union Carbide of India Chairman Keshub Mahindra are among the convicted. However, no word came from the court on former Union Carbide chief executive Warren Anderson, a US citizen who flew to his home country soon after the tragedy, and who was declared an absconder when he did not subject himself to trial in the case.
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