Friday, June 11, 2010


Warren Anderson escorted out of Bhopal in a state government aircraft. The then district magistrate of Bhopal, Moti Singh, told Headlines Today that he was under express orders to ensure that Anderson was granted bail and escorted safely to the aircraft. Arjun Singh was the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh in December 1984. He owes the nation an explanation. If he chooses to keep mum because of loyalty to the party over justice for the 20,000 people killed and over five lakh affected, then this is an act of treason.

Former chief justice of India A.M. Ahmadi too owes the nation an explanation. Why was the case against Union Carbide officials watered down from 304 II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) to 304A (causing death due to negligence)? He was the chief justice of India.

The Supreme Court too let down the people of Bhopal. Former chief justice R.S. Pathak accepted the watered down compensation of 470 million dollars when the state of Madhya Pradesh demanded 3.3 billion dollars as compensation and punitive damages against Union Carbide. The judge concerned owes the nation an explanation. Is his conscience clear today?

B.R. Lal, the CBI officer supervising the case that time, claims there was pressure from the ministry of external affairs not to pursue the extradition of Anderson.

The Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary together let down Bhopal and the nation.

The learned chief judicial magistrate Mohan P. Tiwari gave the maximum punishment to the convicted as permitted by the law under 304A. He did his best. His hands had been tied by former chief justice of India A.M. Ahmadi. The former chief justice too has some questions to answer.

Yesterday, while speaking to journalists he used words to the effect in case his orders were bad in law it could have been challenged by a review petition then. He claimed as far as he knew there was no review petition. But there was a review petition. A Bhopal-based NGO, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udhyog Sangathan, claims it filed a review petition. Today former chief justice Ahmadi changed his stance. He did a U-turn, saying there may have been a review petition. He said: "I do not recollect any review petition."

Look at the anguish of the people of Bhopal. Rajkumar Keshvani, a senior journalist and petitioner, wrote: "It's an irony that Justice Ahmedi, on retirement, got appointed as lifetime chairman by the Supreme Court for the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, which runs a hospital in Bhopal created by the funding of Union Carbide. An eminent Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaisingh opposed his appointment on the grounds that Ahmedi provided relief to Carbide officials accused in the Bhopal criminal case."
Keshwani's anguish is clear when he writes: "Earlier, incidentally, another Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice R.S. Pathak too got the posting as a judge in the International Court of Justice, Hague, in April 1989. This was just three months after Justice Pathak facilitated the infamous out-of-court settlement between the Union Carbide and the Government of India, which had assumed the role of the 'parent of nation' (Parens patriae) by taking away the rights of Bhopal gas victims to contest their compensation cases.

"In this dirty deal by the then Rajiv Gandhi government, Justice Pathak also quashed the criminal proceedings against Carbide in lieu of the payment of settlement money of $470 million. The case could be revived only after victims challenged the decision in the SC.

"It was this revived case in the Bhopal court which was decided on Monday to utter disillusionment of the survivors and to a great delight of the accused, since none of them had to go to jail even for a minute. They were granted bails then and there by the CJM against a surety of Rs 25, 000 each."

Our political masters came out with the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act 1985. This Act conferred certain powers on the central government to secure claims arising out of, or connected with, the Bhopal gas leak disaster. The aim was that the claims are dealt with speedily, effectively, equitably and to the best advantage of the claimants. Can anyone of our leaders today stand up and say that they did so? A claim of 3.3 billion dollars watered down to 470 million dollars. Is this the best they could do?

This is India, a growing superpower so desperate for that permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. This is a country let down by its political leadership. This is a country that looked up to its so well-respected judiciary. But justice was not only delayed but also denied.

The executive, the legislature and the judiciary clearly appear to have favoured the rich, the high and the mighty over the poor suffering people of Bhopal.

It is a pity that even today, none of the powers that be are interested in the truth coming out and the guilty brought to book. Before we attack the US, let us look within. Unless we take ourselves seriously, the world will not. Unless we are more serious about bringing the guilty to book, how can we complain if the US does not take us seriously on extraditing Anderson?

We can only complain that Barack Obama cares more about American dolphins (looking for ass to kick in the BP oil spill) than Indian lives in Bhopal. But what are we doing to ensure Arjun Singh speaks the truth? What are we doing to ensure former chief justices Pathak and Ahmadi explain their actions.

Twenty thousand people were killed in Bhopal, many in their sleep. Over five lakh suffered and continue to suffer. Do we care? We should. For nuclear power, we are to set up plants and the world will soon be at our doorstep trying to sell its wares. An accident there will be a Bhopal multiplied a million times. We should care because we could be next. The next Bhopal could be in our city.

If foreigners like Anderson and powerful companies like Union Carbide could get away so easily that time, their money could buy our establishment again and again. We have to be aware to demand accountability. And that starts today.