New Delhi: Even as the US remained unimpressed about the need to bring those behind the Bhopal gas tragedy to justice, the government of India on Tuesday made it clear that it will pursue the case against the Union Carbide’s ex-chief Warren Anderson.
Detailing the government’s next move, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily accepted that the case against him (Anderson) was looked at causally.
“As far as Anderson is concerned, the case is not closed,” Moily said.
He said the name of Anderson figured in the chargesheet filed by the CBI in the case.
“The CBI has filed chargesheet. The courts then frame charges. There is one person here who has not responded to the summons or replied to the charges. He has absconded and was declared a proclaimed offender,” he said.
“That does not mean that the case against him (Anderson) is closed,” Moily said, adding that his case has been an eye-opener.
Anderson, facing charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, has been avoiding Indian courts ever since he jumped bail in 1984. He was the CEO of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster and he along with others is accused of causing death due to negligence.
Moily did not divulge any details about whether the government would press the US to extradite him to India – as per reports; Anderson now lives in a New York suburb.
On the wider question of justice for those innocent thousands who died on December 2-3 1984, Moily said, “We need to learn lessons from it (the guilty getting away with minor punishment), right from the event to the trail and the verdict.”
“We must have holistic approach. We need a comprehensive law to look into prevention, compensation and punishment,” he stressed.
Moily also rued that “people have no fear of law” and that there was an urgent need to make sure that companies adhere to the guidelines, and also ensure that they be punished if they don’t follow the rules.
On the role of the judiciary, Moily opined that the judiciary should have taken a serious pitch of the tragedy – dubbed as the world’s biggest industrial disaster -, quickly adding that the trial and subsequent verdict is not in any way a reflection of the judiciary but time has come to revisit the judicial process.
The law minister also took strong exception to the claims now being made by former CBI officer BB Lal that the government told him to not go after Anderson; he said that he holds Lal culpable as he had the powers as an investigating officer to discharge his responsibilities, but he failed to do so.
On Monday, a lower court in Bhopal convicted all 8 accused, including the then chief of India operations Keshub Mahindra, in the gas tragedy case and sentenced them to a maximum 2 years imprisonment. However, all the accused were immediately released on bail.
The verdict comes after more than 25 years of the leak of deadly methyl isocianate from Union Carbide’s chemical plant in Bhopal on December 2, 1984 that killed 15,000 (around 3,000 officially) people and injured many.