M A I N   N E W S

GoM for extradition of Anderson
Likely to ask Supreme Court to review judgment in case
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, June 19
The second meeting of the group of ministers (GoM) on Bhopal gas tragedy hit a roadblock on holding Dow Chemicals liable for cleaning up the toxic waste at the abandoned Union Carbide factory site as there is no clarity about the ownership of the Indian unit.

The GoM agreed that the UPA government must make a fresh attempt for the extradition of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson to stand trial in the case. It also endorsed the Law Ministry’s proposal that the government should file a curative petition to challenge an earlier Supreme Court order diluting the charges against the culprits and the light sentence handed out by the Bhopal trial court on June 7. It had suggested enhancement of compensation to the victims yesterday. The general mood at the GoM was to respond urgently to the burning issue.

The panel, which studied legal options and health-related issues, was unable to firm up its recommendation on pursuing the liability case against Dow Chemicals, which bought Union Carbide Corp (UCC) in 2001. The Ministry of Fertilisers and Chemicals had asked Dow Chemicals to deposit Rs 100 crore for the clean-up, but the case was still pending in the Jabalpur high court.

Dow has refused to pay up, saying the liability for the tragedy was settled by the UCC in 1989 when it agreed to pay $470 million as compensation. It argued that Dow never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal and that it entered the picture well after the matter was settled between the Indian government and Union Carbide. It has also pointed out that Union Carbide India Limited, which owned the factory when the gas leak took place, today exists in the form of Eveready Industries India Limited.

Confronted with confusing details on the exact nature of the transaction between Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, the GoM today asked officials to unearth all relevant documents following which it will decide on how it should pursue the liability case against Dow. GoM members, it is learnt, were taken by surprise when they got no ready answers on the transaction while an explanation was that Dow had bought UCC, but not the Indian unit. “These facts were a revelation to us,” a GoM member pointed out, adding that the land had since been acquired by the state government.

Given the raging controversy over the manner in which Warren Anderson was allowed to leave the country, the GoM will suggest that his extradition be pursued afresh.

In her presentation, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao gave background and details of the efforts made by the government in seeking Anderson’s extradition between 2003 and 2008 that were rejected by the USA on grounds of insufficient evidence.

The GoM has also okayed the suggestion on filing a curative petition in the Supreme Court challenging the apex court’s 1996 judgement which had converted the CBI charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which provides for a maximum of 10-year imprisonment, to causing death by negligence, which provides for a maximum punishment of only two years.





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