Bhopal court hears evidence of Indian accused

Adapted with comments (in italics), from
Chief Judicial Magistrate Anil Gupta, sitting in Bhopal today recorded statements from Shakeel I Qureshi, then production assistant of Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) and a local company representative A K Shrivastava, in the ongoing criminal case related to the Union Carbide 1984 gas tragedy.
The Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had brought charges against 12 defendants on the basis of statements of 178 witnesses.
The seven Indian defendants, including well known industrialist Keshub Mahindra, Chairman of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) at the time of the gas leak, face charges of criminal negligence. Of the foreign accused, Union Carbide Corporation (US) and its ex-Chairman Warren Anderson are charged with culpable homicide.
The court had yesterday recorded statements of the then UCIL works manager J Mukund and plant superintendent K V Shetty.
Mukund had earlier told the court that leakage of gas had never taken place in the UCIL factory here before the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, but its workers had been trained to take necessary precautions in the event of any leak. comment: There are had been so many leaks, including a fatal leak of phosgene, that the warning siren had been turned off because it was sounding so often it was considered a nuisance. Worried factory workers had plastered posters in surrounding communities warning them of the danger. In a major cost cutting exercise before the leak, safety staff numbers were halved and training time cut from six months to two weeks. Safety auditors visiting from Carbide US in 1982 found dozens of safety problems and warned of the potential for a major toxic release. Measures were taken to improve safety in Carbide’s West Virginia plant, but in Bhopal nothing was done.
Apart from Qureshi, Shetty and Mukund, Indians accused in the case include former UCIL Chairman Keshub Mahindra, Managing Director Vijay Gokhale, production manager S P Choudhury and vice-president Kishore Kamdar.
Charges were also levelled against Union Carbide Corporation, its Asian subsidiary Union Carbide (Eastern) and former UCC chairman Warren Anderson.
UCC, UC Eastern (now defunct) and Warren Anderson have been refusing to obey the court’s summons since 1992 and have been proclaimed “criminal absconders from justice”.

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