Bhopal’s most wanted: Warren Anderson
Story Dated: Wednesday, December 2, 2009 12:16 hrs IST
New Delhi, Dec 1: A quarter century after the world's worst industrial disaster killed thousands in Bhopal, India is yet to extradite the main accused, American Warren Anderson.
In a case that seems to be going nowhere, India issued a fresh arrest warrant in July this year and the Ministry of External Affairs is pursuing the matter with the US administration, officials here said.
"Anderson never appeared before the court to face trial. Therefore, his extradition request was sent to the external affairs ministry Sep 23, 1993. It was remitted back by the US on May 9, 2002, requesting us to re-examine the matter," Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ashwini Kumar told IANS.
"A few months later we again sent a revised extradition request along with an arrest warrant," Kumar explained.
"A fresh arrest warrant was again issued against him in July 2009. We are pursuing his extradition matter with the US authorities through the foreign ministry. His trail has been separated from the rest of accused."
Anderson was chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corp (UCC), now owned by Dow Chemical Co, when tonnes of poisonous methyl-isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal on the night of Dec 2, 1984, killing over 3,500 people instantly.
Thousands were severely injured and handicapped. NGOs estimate that the death toll rose sharply to 10,000 within 72 hours and that the number now stands at over 25,000.
The Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) factory was set up in 1969. In UCIL, 50.9 percent was owned by Union Carbide Corp (UCC) and 49.1 percent by Indian investors, including public sector financial institutions.
The CBI chief said it was found during investigation that UCC was to provide safety measures to store MIC as well as its operating standards to UCIL.
"But due to inherent defects in the design of the UCIL plant, which were in the knowledge of the accused persons, MIC gas leaked, resulting in the death of (thousands of) human beings and numerous animals besides causing grievous injuries to thousands," Kumar said.
After the disaster, a case was registered by the Madhya Pradesh police against officials of UCIL. It was transferred to the CBI on Dec 6, 1984.
Three years later, the CBI filed its charge sheet in the court of the additional session judge in Bhopal under Indian Penal Code sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 429 (mischief by killing, poisoning, maiming animals) against Anderson and seven other people.
However, the Supreme Court later amended the charges to sections 304-A (causing death by negligence), 336 (acts endangering life or personal safety of others), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by acts endangering life or personal safety of others).
Following the apex court direction, the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Bhopal framed the charges afresh.
The CBI chief said that during the trial, 178 prosecution witnesses were examined and 3,008 documents exhibited. In November 2005, the prosecution evidence was closed and statements of the accused were recorded under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
"The case is now pending at the stage of defence evidence," he added.
Nityanand Jayaraman, a social activist working for the Bhopal gas victims, said not a single accused had been sentenced so far.
"The judiciary is moving at an astonishing slow pace. All the Indian accused are out on bail and Anderson does not appear before the court. He is enjoying the government's protection as India does not want to upset the US," Jayaraman told IANS.
"All the time we hear that the government is trying to extradite Anderson through the external affairs ministry. But nothing happens because of the lack of political will. Our government has separate policies for different people. They did everything to extradite mobster Abu Salem but have not moved even an inch to get Anderson," he added.