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Bhopal tragedy survivors want convicts’ punishment enhanced

Bhopal, June 8 (Calcutta Tube) Describing Bhopal gas tragedy case verdict as a judicial disaster, organisations representing survivors of the gas leak here Tuesday demanded enhancement of the two-year jail term awarded to seven Union Carbide officials.

Talking to newsmen, the representatives of four gas tragedy survivors’ organisations sought setting up of a special prosecution cell for pursuing the cases.

More than 25 years after a gas leak from a Union Carbide plant killed an estimated 25,000 people here, a court here Monday convicted the company and seven of its officials of criminal negligence in the world’s worst industrial disaster.

The seven officials were sentenced to two years in jail, and were immediately later released on bail.

The demand for enhancing the sentence for the seven officials was raised by Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM), Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) and Children Against Dow Carbide (CADC).

The organisations also criticised the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)for its soft line towards Union Carbide Corporation’s current owner, Dow Chemicals Limited, in the last several years and hoped that things will change.

‘Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must set up a special prosecution cell that we have been demanding for the last 18 years. The first thing this cell must do is to move on enhancement of the sentences of those convicted,’ said Rashida Bee of BGPMSKS.

On Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily’s remark that the justice was buried in the criminal case on the Bhopal gas disaster, the leaders of four organisations mentioned the measures that can be taken to undo the ‘judicial disaster’.

‘The CBI must execute the summons issued against Dow Chemical Company by the Bhopal district court in January 2005 and take action on the basis of its investigations on (alleged) payment of $200,000 as bribe to officials in the agricultural ministry,’ said Syed M. Irfan of BGPMPSM.

The CBI needs to recognise that as the full owner of the erstwhile Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), Dow Chemical Co. is committing the crime of sheltering a fugitive from justice, he said.

The organisations pointed out that DCC has also helped Union Carbide in continuing its business in India, while avoiding Indian courts.

The most glaring example, they said, was the sale of Union Carbide’s patented technology UNIPOL to Reliance Petroleum Limited (RPL) for its polypropylene unit in Jamnagar in Gujarat in 2006.

The activists also condemned the US state department’s reported statement that Monday’s verdict in the Bhopal court would bring closure to the issue of criminal justice in the tragedy case.

‘The prime minister should be inspired by US President Barack Obama’s commitment towards making BP corporation responsible for its recent oil spill in Gulf of Mexico,’ said Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

He must demand that the American government must follow the same standards on corporate liability for US corporations operating in India as it expects other corporations operating in the US, Sarangi said.

The organisations said that the Indian government must join the ongoing litigation in the US federal court against UCC and its former chairman Warren Anderson on the issue of contamination of soil and water in and around the abandoned factory in Bhopal.

The representatives of the organisations said that the case filed by a group of victims in 1999 has faced several hurdles.

They said that if tears being shed on the lack of justice are genuine, the Indian government will join the case in support of plaintiffs to ensure action against contamination and payment of compensation of personal injuries and property damages.

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