American accused in Bhopal gas case still at large: CBI

New Delhi, June 7 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chairman of the American parent company Union Carbide Corp responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, is yet to be brought to book by Indian law, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials said Monday.

While a Bhopal trial court Monday convicted eight Indian officials of Union Carbide for their criminal negligence that triggered the world’s worst industrial disaster, the officials said law is yet to catch up with Anderson and other company officials belonging to the US.

The only time that Anderson had a brush with the Indian law was Dec 7, 1984, when he along with several Indian officials of Union Carbide was arrested in Bhopal after registration of the police complaint at the Hanuman Ganj police station in Bhopal Dec 3, 1984.

Anderson was released on bail the same day. He was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, grievous assault and killing and poisoning human beings and animals due to leakage of the deadly methyl-iso-cyanate (MIC) gas from the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal.

The case was subsequently taken up by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which Dec 1, 1987, filed its charge sheet, indicting Anderson, America-based UCC, Union Carbide Eastern Hong Kong, and Indian officials of the Bhopal plant and Unioon Carbide India.

But a crucial pact between the central government and the Union Carbide derailed the prosecution by absolving Union Carbide of all criminal and civil liabilities of the disaster for a payment of $470 million.

On a lawsuit challenging the central government’s pact with Union Carbide, the Supreme Court Oct 3, 1991, revoked criminal immunity granted to the UCC and all other accused in the case.

This allowed Bhopal’s chief judicial magistrate to resume trial of all the accused – Indians and foreigners, including Anderson, Nov 11, 1991.

The Bhopal court Jan 1, 1992, issued a proclamation for Anderson’s appearance before it, said CBI officials, adding that the new was published in the Washington Post.

As Anderson failed to respond, the Bhopal court April 10, 1992, issued non-bailable arrest warrants against him and directed the central government to seek his extradition from the US.

The central government in May-June 2003 sent requests to the US state and justice departments for extradition Anderson. But the US, in July 2004, rejected India’s request.

And there has been no development since then on extradition of Anderson, said CBI sources.

‘The court delivering its verdict nearly 26 years after the disaster is not merely a case of delayed justice but also incomplete justice as the Indian law is yet to bring Anderson to book,’ said Satinath Sarangi, a veteran social activist working for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims.

‘Is the Indian law, which once forced former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to face trial on criminal and corruption charges, too weak to secure the presence of an American business tycoon?’ he asked.

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