M A I N   N E W S

Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Keshub, 7 others convicted
* Get two-year imprisonment
* All convicts get bail immediately

No word about Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of the USA, in the judgement delivered by CJM Mohan P Tiwari 23 years after the trial commenced. Anderson is still an absconder.

In his 93-page verdict, the CJM said the accused were not sentenced under Section 304 of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder that provides a maximum of life imprisonment) since they were old and suffering from serious ailments, including heart disease.

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily described the verdict as an example of "justice buried" and said there was need for fast-tracking such cases and ensuring proper investigation.

Bhopal, June 7
Nearly 26 years after the world's worst industrial disaster left more than 15,000 dead in the Bhopal gas tragedy, former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and seven others were today convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment in a judgement that came under attack from civil rights activists and parties.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari held the 85-year-old non-executive chairman of the Indian subsidiary of the US-based company and gave them punishment under less stringent provisions of the Indian Penal Code for causing death by negligence.

The 89-year-old Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of USA, who lives in the United States, appeared to have gone scot free for the present as he is still an absconder and did not subject himself to trial. There was no word about him in the judgement delivered by CJM Tiwari 23 years after trial commenced.

The US based company reacted to the judgement saying neither it nor its officials were subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian court since they were not involved in the operation of the plant, which was owned and operated by Union Carbide India Limited.

In his 93-page verdict, Tiwari said the accused were not sentenced under section 304 IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder that provides a maximum of life imprisonment) since they were old age and were suffering from serious ailments including heart disease.

Others sentenced were Vijay Gokhle, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, the then Vice President, J N Mukund, the then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, the then Production Manager, K V Shetty, the then Plant Superintendent and S I Quereshi, the then Production Assistant.

All the convicts applied for bail immediately after the sentencing and were granted relief on a surety of Rs 25,000 each.

The judgement comes against the backdrop of a debate on the Civil Nuclear Liability bill which national opposition parties fear does not have provisions for making foreign suppliers give adequate compensation to victims of nuclear disasters.

Tiwari pronounced the verdict in a packed court room convicting 85-year-old Mahindra, the non-executive former Chairman of UCIL, and seven others in the case relating to leakage of deadly methyl isocyanate gas in the night intervening Dec 2 and 3, 1984.

They were held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) and 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.

Mahindra, who had declined a Padma Bhushan award in 2002 on grounds that he was facing trial in the case, and six others were present to hear the judgement while Quereshi was represented by his counsel. The sentencing for Quereshi is yet to be announced.

They were sentenced to two years imprisonment and awarded a fine of Rs. One lakh each under section 304(a), imprisonment of 3 months and a fine of Rs.250 under Sec 336, 6 months and Rs.500 under Sec 337 and 2 years and Rs.1,000 under Sec 338. All the sentences will run concurrently.

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily described the verdict as an example of "justice buried" and said there was need for fast-tracking such cases and ensuring proper investigation.

The BJP termed the order as “painful” and said the prosecution should appeal against the lower punishment. It also utilised the opportunity to reconsider the provisions of the nuclear liability bill.

CPI D Raja said the verdict was “too little, too late” and accused the CBI of failure to bring to justice foreigners charged in the case.

Judge Tiwari gave 30 days time to the convicts to appeal against the judgement. He also ordered immediate production of eighth convict Quereshi.

The judgement was delivered amidst tight security in the court complex with media and even some lawyers representing gas victims were not not allowed inside.

The Indian subsidiary of the Union Carbide was also fined a sum of Rs. 5 lakh, besides the fines of Rs.250, Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 under various sections.

Defence lawyers said that since all the guilty were old and facing a number of serious ailments, leniency should be shown in giving them punishment.

They also contended that the Supreme Court had ruled in cases where victims were given compensation and the accident was totally unintentional, the criminal liability should be minimum. — PTI





Victims haven’t got justice: Moily
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, June 7
Describing the handling of the Bhopal gas tragedy case as nothing short of “criminal negligence”, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily today said the UPA government would accord top priority to it and fast-track it when it comes up in the higher courts.

Disappointed over the minor punishment handed out to those responsible for the gas tragedy, activists have already announced that they would be moving an appeal in the high court.

Admitting that the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster had not got justice, Moily said a stand-alone law was required to deal with incidents of such scale and dimension to ensure that there was no delay in investigating the case, bringing the culprits to book and payment of compensation to the victims.

Today’s verdict, he said, was delayed as it had been mired in lengthy litigation in different courts.

Moily also conceded that the Supreme Court’s 1999 order dropping the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder had constrained the CBI.

The premier investigating agency, he said, was directed by the apex court to file the chargesheet under a less stringent provision of the Indian Penal Code (Section 304 A), which is causing death by negligence.

Under this Section, the maximum punishment that could be accorded to the culprit is two years.

“The CBI and the judiciary were working under a limited mandate”, Moily remarked. The minister said today’s verdict holds several lessons for the government, investigating agencies and the judiciary, adding that a tragedy of such a scale could not be covered under a mild legal provision like Section 304 A.

“This kind of criminal negligence cannot be excused,” Moily remarked, adding that such incidents should not be open to interpretation. Agreeing that the 26-year-delay in this case was inexcusable, Moily said the government’s law officers would examine today’s verdict see how they can move forward on it.

Asked about India’s failure to pursue the case against Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson, Moily said the Indian Government had made all possible efforts to bring him to justice but the US had not cooperated. “We did our best but what can we do...the other country also has to cooperate,” he said.



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