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Bhopal Verdict
The blame game is on
Case against Anderson not closed, says Moily
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

The External Affairs Ministry, in a written communication, asked the CBI not to pursue the extradition case against Anderson.

— BR Lall, former Joint Director of CBI

It is an irresponsible statement. This is not done at all. After retirement, people become martyrs by making such statements.

— M Veerappa Moily

New Delhi, June 8
An intense blame game was on today even as the nation struggled to overcome the shock of the trial court verdict virtually letting off seven accused in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy case with just two-year sentence.

Retired CBI official BR Lall, who supervised the investigation in 1994-95, levelled a serious allegation that the External Affairs Ministry had tried to stymie the premier agency’s efforts for the extradition of former Union Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson from the USA.

The CBI was convinced that Anderson was the main culprit, but the ministry, in a written communication, had asked the agency not to pursue the extradition case, Lall, who was Joint Director then, said. He had, however, replied to the ministry that it was not possible for the agency to comply with the advice. He did not know what transpired later as shortly thereafter he was transferred.

He contended that justice in the case was delayed and hence denied as the CBI was not independent and its investigation was influenced and commanded by some officials.

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily promptly dismissed this, describing it as an irresponsible statement by a retired official. “After retirement, people can give many statement. It is an irresponsible statement. This is not done at all. After retirement, people become martyrs by making such statements,” he said.

The case against Anderson was not closed. He had not responded to summons or to the charges. This resulted in the court declaring him as a proclaimed offender. This did not mean the case was closed, Moily said.

The minister, however, had acknowledged yesterday that justice was “buried” in the case and there was need for fast-tracking such cases and improving the investigation. He said the government would fast-track the Bhopal gas tragedy case in the high court as it had learnt “big lessons” from the verdict and could go in for a stand-alone legislation to ensure that the culprits in such incidents were brought to book effectively.

In 2003, the Indian Government did make a request to the USA for the extradition of Anderson, but Washington turned it down. Victims and many others firmly believe that the government could not succeed as it did not try hard enough. According to legal experts, the SCs hould also share the blame for the two-year sentence. For, it was the apex court that ruled in 1996 that violation of certain rules did not warrant invoking Section 304-II of the IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

NGO to challenge verdict in HC

Bhopal: Anguished over the trial court’s verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy, an NGO working for the survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster that killed over 15,000 persons today said it would challenge the judgement in Madhya Pradesh High Court and meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Law Minister M Veerappa Moily in this regard.

“We are going to challenge the Chief Judicial Magistrate’s order in the Madhya Pradesh High Court. We want that the seven convicts should be tried under Section 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and other tough sections of IPC and punished severely for more than 30,000 deaths,” Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS) convenor Abdul Jabbar told reporters here.

“We are waiting for the copy of the CJM’s order,” he said.

Welcoming Moily’s statement that “justice had been buried” in the 23-year-old case, he said, they would soon meet the Law Minister and the Prime Minister to ensure that the convicts of the industrial disaster were prosecuted under tough charges. “We will ask Singh and Moily to set up a commission to look into the gas tragedy case and set up a special cell for a speedy trial,” he said. — PTI





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