Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Justice delayed is justice denied

Bhopal gas leak victims. A file photo

By Sharida Rashid Khan

Many scholars and political scientists have defined and explained the notion of justice in different ways. Some have elaborated it in terms of religion and morality while as, some have given its social and legal interpretation.


Justice has been defined in negative terms also such as absence of discrimination, tyranny or exploitation.

Summing up all definitions, justice means to give one his/her due. In this manner Justice means, “treating equals equally and unequals unequally”.

So, here I am going to explain justice in legal term with a legal background.

In legal term, laws are the backbone of Justice. Everywhere laws are made and main motive behind law making is to secure justice whether it’s economic Justice or social justice.

Justice makes a society an orderly one and healthy. But when justice is delayed it’s denied.

In India there are more than 60,000 cases before the Supreme Court which still remain unsolved. 44.75 lakh cases in various High courts. And at the District and Subordinate courts about 3.14 crore pending cases.

The delays are mainly because of improper and inadequate way of handling the cases. Inadequacy of resources is another reason for the delay and denial of justice.

It’s is very difficult for the poor to pay court fees or process fees, or legal assistance in a court. And also they don’t have any kind of knowledge about processing work so they have to continuously roam around the doors of the court and lawyers.

Appointment of a new judge also amounts to delay of justice. For example; If a case regarding domestic violence is filed in any High court under the jurisdiction of a particular judge. And if he delays case from time to time then justice is also denied.

As we know, the retirement age of the Judge of a high court is 62 years, as defined in the Indian Constitution. And when new judge is appointed it takes time to read the facts of the case again, to scrutinize the case by reading factual details which is already done by the previous judge.

Thus creates chaos and consumes time. In this way the case remains undecided and thus justice is denied.

Our democracy is based in the principle of equality, Justice, human dignity and fraternity and delay in justice fosters social and economic inequalities one way or the other which is undemocratic.

THE BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY is one of the leading cases in India where justice was delayed and denied.

On December 2/3, 1984, a biggest disaster and worst in entire human history which happened by the leakage of Methyl isocyanate (MIC) and other toxic gases from a plant set by the Union Carbide India Ltd, (UCIL).

Approx 3000 persons died and a very large number of people (over 6 lakhs) were either permanently disabled, affected respiratory system including damage to the foetuses of the pregnant ladies.

Various cases were filed both in Bhopal and USA against Union Carbide Corporation, (UCC). After a long litigation for over 4 years, an arrangement came before Supreme Court as, Union Carbide Corporation Vs Union of India, On February 14 and 15, 1989, for the payment of a sum of Rs.750 crores.

But besides this legal provision of granting compensation to the victims, they were not fully compensated. The process regarding compensation was slow and making it difficult for the victims to claim compensation.

Around 74% claims of the victims of BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY have been rejected due to the slow mechanism of Indian courts. Even after so many years of disaster, the welfare measures are extremely unsatisfactory and inadequate.

The victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy were denied justice and were exploited in the name of justice which amounts the same as no remedy at all.

To deal with this problem there should be effective and efficient way of handling the cases. First the cases of primary concern should be taken into the matter and then secondary cases.

But it doesn’t mean that justice should be done in hurry as justice hurried could be justice buried. As stated in “Nirbhaya Case” by the lawyer AP Singh.

Proper examination of the cases is important. Case should have to be decided in a required and appropriate time and not more or less than the required time.


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