Bhopal, June 6 (Calcutta Tube) Over 25 years after the Bhopal gas tragedy when the verdict in the case is to be pronounced Monday, the victims want capital punishment for the accused but are not too hopeful of getting full justice.
They feel the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already ‘weakened’ the case.
The accused in the case include senior Indian executives of Union Carbide India Limited and Warren Anderson, former chairman of Union Carbide Corporation, US, which owned the Bhopal plant – who is absconding.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group of Information and Action told IANS: ‘The folly committed by the accused should fetch no less than capital punishment for all of them. They should be hanged in public.’
‘We are being deceived since the beginning. The case, based on a charge sheet filed by the CBI Dec 1, 1987, against 12 parties, was originally to be tried under Section 304 Part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder leading up to 10 years imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code,’ Sadhna Karnik of Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sehayog Samiti, who is also a victim, said Sunday.
‘This, however, was challenged by the accused in the Supreme Court which, in a September 1996 order, diluted the charges against the Indian accused to Section 304 A – causing death by negligence with maximum imprisonment up to two years,’ she added.
‘Now, even if the judgment pronounces them guilty, what does two years’ punishment mean and that too with the liberty to appeal in higher courts?’ Karnik asked.
Another activist, Abdul Jabbar of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS), accused the CBI of preparing and presenting a ‘weak’ charge sheet in the case.
‘More than 178 witnesses, belonging to weaker sections of society, were registered but several important witnesses were left out,’ he said.
‘A judgment such as this one, with a high-profile accused, has the potential to shape the future of how big business operates in the country,’ Jabbar said.
Activists also question the CBI’s role as it has not been able to produce Andersen, the prime accused in the case, even after two arrest warrants were issued against him, the last one in July 2009.
Dow Chemical Company, which took over the US-based Union Carbide Corporation in 1999, says all the liabilities were settled when the company paid $470 million compensation in a settlement brokered by the Indian Supreme Court.
The verdict will be pronounced Monday by Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Mohan P. Tiwari in the case, arguments for which closed May 13.
Four of the organisations representing victims Saturday accused the Indian government of criminal negligence in the prosecution of the accused in the case.
‘Justice will be done in Bhopal only if individuals and corporations responsible for the deaths of over 25,000 people and toxic exposure damage to over half a million are punished in an exemplary manner,’ said president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Rashida Bee.
‘Eventually, the number of those affected was increased. But the compensation money was not, so each victim got far less than they should have and there are many who did not even get a single penny,’ said Balkrishna Namdeo of the Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha.
Tonnes of methyl-iso-cyanate (MIC) and other lethal gases that spewed out of the now defunct Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant here on the intervening night of Dec 2-3, 1984, killed more than 3,500 people instantly and maimed thousands for life.
In the weeks that followed, 15,250 more people, who had inhaled the gas or consumed contaminated water, died, according to official figures. Victims’ rights group claim the toll was 25,000.