Subscribe to South Asia Citizens Wire | feeds from sacw.net | @sacw
Home > National Interest vs People’s Interest > India: Take steps for the extradition of Warren Anderson, from the United (...)

Justice for Victims of the Bhopal Gas Disaster

India: Take steps for the extradition of Warren Anderson, from the United States of America

by Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Saghathan, Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti, 1 August 2009

print version of this article print version

Chief Judicial Magistrate , Bhopal, Issues Fresh Arrest Warrant Against Warren Anderson

31 July 2009

1. It was primarily at the instance of the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Saghathan (BGPMUS) & the Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS) that the Supreme Court of India had on 03.10.1991 revived the criminal cases against all the accused in the Bhopal gas leak disaster case after the same had been revoked under the Bhopal Settlement of 14/15.02.1989. The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Bhopal has also permitted BGPSSS, BGPMUS and BGIA (Bhopal Group for Information & Action) to file applications vide Order dated 07.10.1994 and to assist the Prosecution (CBI) vide Order dated 24.12.1996 in the ongoing Bhopal gas leak disaster criminal cases.

2. The CJM, Bhopal had on 27.3.1992 issued a non-bailable warrant of arrest against accused No.1, Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), USA, and a citizen of the United States of America, for repeatedly absconding from the hearing in the ongoing criminal cases before the CJM, Bhopal. However, the Government of India never executed the said arrest warrant against Warren Anderson for the last 17 years although there exists an Extradition Treaty between the Government of India and the Government of the United States of America, which was signed on 25 June 1997 and ratified on 21 July 1999.

3. Due to the extreme indifference on the part of the Government of India in executing the directions of the CJM, Bhopal dated 27.3.1992 in the above matter, BGPSSS and BGPMUS filed a fresh Application for Directions on 20.7.2009 before the CJM, Bhopal under Section 105B of CrPC 1973. Although BGPSSS & BGPMUS had filed several such applications earlier including under Sections 217 and 221 of the IPC, it was only the present CJM, Mr.M.P.Tiwari, who decided to take prompt action. At the hearing on 31.7.2009, the CJM informed the applicants that he had already issued a fresh warrant of arrest against Warren Anderson on 22.7.2009 and that the necessary letters had been sent to the office of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI - the prosecution agency in the case), in New Delhi. A copy of the said warrant was handed over to the CBI counsel Mr.C.Sahay and other CBI officials present in the court.

4. Anderson is charged under Section 304 Part-II [culpable homicide not amounting to murder], Section 326 [voluntarily causing grievous hurt], Section 324 [voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means], and Section 429 [mischief by killing or maiming animals etc.] of IPC r/w section 35 of IPC [criminal acts committed with knowledge]. All the said charges are punishable acts with imprisonment ranging from FIVE to TEN years and are therefore extraditable offences under Article 2 of the said Extradition Treaty.

5. It may be recalled that at the instance of the Government of India, the CBI on 24.05.2002 had made a veiled attempt to frustrate the efforts to seek extradition of Warren Anderson by filing an application before the CJM, Bhopal, to reduce charges against Anderson from Section 304 Part II to 304-A of IPC. The purpose of seeking to reduce the charge from a case of culpable homicide to a case of criminal negligence was to ensure that Anderson would be out of the ambit of an extraditable offence. At the very next hearing on 17.07.2002, BGPMUS, BGPSSS and BGIA vehemently opposed the CBI’s move and pleaded with the CJM to reject the said application filed by the CBI. They pointed out to the Court that Warren Anderson was a proclaimed offender, who was absconding from the proceedings before that very Court. The CJM on 28.08.2002 upheld the plea of the victims-organisations and refused to accede to the CBI’s request. The Court further directed the CBI to execute the order issued by the Court on 27.03.1992 and to seek extradition of Warren Anderson from the United States without further delay.

6. Another aspect that BGPSSS & BGPMUS have raised in the said application dated 20.7.2009 relates to the non-execution of the Letter Rogatory that the CJM, Bhopal, had issued on 06.7.1988. The said letter of request, which was addressed to the U.S. Administration, was essentially a request to permit the CBI to carry out a comparative study of the safety systems of the Bhopal plant and the Institute plant (in West Virginia, USA) of UCC. The intended comparative study was for the purpose of verifying whether UCC had adopted double standards by installing inferior safety systems at its Bhopal plant. Although the U.S. Government formally permitted the CBI to conduct the said inspection of UCC’s pesticide plant at Institute on 14.02.1989, the entire process was pre-empted by the instant Bhopal Settlement that took place in the Supreme Court of India on 14/15.02.1989. As to whether the instant Settlement was intended to sabotage the said comparative study by the CBI and, thereby, conceal the fact that UCC had in fact installed sub-standard/insufficient safety systems at its Bhopal plant is a conclusion that anyone with a modicum of intelligence can appropriately draw.

7. Subsequently after the revival of the criminal cases against all the accused in the case vide Order of the Supreme Court of India on 03.10.1991, the CBI again on 24.12.1991 sent a formal letter to the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, in this regard. The said letter reportedly requested the concerned Indian embassy officials to approach the U.S. Administration for reviving the permission granted to the CBI on 14.02.1989 to inspect the safety systems of UCC’s pesticide plant at Institute in West Virginia. However, since the Government of India has not shown any interest in the matter, the embassy officials have taken no further action in this regard.

8. It is under these circumstances that BGPSSS & BGPMUS have been repeatedly raising this matter before the CJM, Bhopal. Since a comparative study of the safety systems that were installed at Bhopal and at Institute would provide crucial evidence in the criminal case, the other issue that was raised in the said Application for Directions that was filed on 20.7.2009 before the CJM, Bhopal, was under Section 15 of the Evidence Act 1872. Since the CJM is yet to issue fresh direction in this matter, BGPSSS & BGPMUS will pursue the same before the CJM, Bhopal, at the next hearing on 19.8.2009.

8. It may be recalled that the Bhopal gas leak disaster took place on the night of 02/03 December 1984 because of which over 574,000 residents of Bhopal suffered injuries in varying degree. It may be noted that 574,367 gas-victims have actually been awarded compensation for death and injury although the Bhopal Settlement of 14/15.02.1989 was based on the assumption that only 3000 people died and another 102,000 had suffered injury. In the estimates of the victim-groups, over 20,000 people have actually died because of the seriousness of the injuries suffered by them. On an average about 6000 gas-victims continue to visit the various hospitals, which are specially set up for them, everyday to this day despite the fact that the bulk of them have been categorised as temporarily injured and awarded measly compensation accordingly. The Settlement amount of $465 million (or Rs.713 crores at the 1989 exchange rate of 1 Dollar = Rs.15.33) was quantified on the assumption that there were only 105,000 gas-victims. However, since the same amount was actually disbursed among 574,367 gas-victims, BGPMUS & BGPSSS are in the process of filing a Writ Petition before the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur to help pave the way for enhancement of the compensation by FIVE times in proportion to the magnitude of the disaster. The bottom line is that even twenty-five years after the disaster, justice continues to elude the gas-victims.

10. BGPSSS & BGPMUS sincerely hope that the Government of India would take appropriate steps to implement the directions of the CJM, Bhopal, dated 22.07.2009 to seek extradition of accused No.1, Warren Anderson, from the United States of America to stand trial in the court of the CJM even at this late stage.

Abdul Jabbar Khan, for BGPMUS, 51, Rajendra Nagar, Bhopal –
462010 (Tel: 0755-2730241; Mobile: 09406511720; E-mail: swabhimankandra at rediffmail.com)

N.D.Jayaprakash, for BGPSSS, C/o Delhi Science Forum, D-158, Saket, New Delhi – 110017 (Tel:011-27666980; Mobile: 09968014630; E-mail:
jaypdsf at gmail.com)

Sadhana Karnik, for BGPSSS, A-106, Padmanabh Nagar, Bhopal – 462023 (Mobile: 094250008021;
- E-mail: sadhna_karnik at yahoo.co.in )

01 August 2009