At a press conference today four organizations of survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal condemned the Indian government’s “criminal negligence” in the prosecution of those accused of responsibility for the world’s worst corporate massacre. They said that as the Minister in charge of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Prime Minister must accept blame for the prosecuting agency’s incompetence and mishandling of the case.
“Justice will be done in Bhopal only if the individuals and corporations responsible for the deaths of over 25 thousand and toxic exposure and damage to over half a million people are punished in an exemplary manner. Union Carbide’s disaster was foreseeable and foreseen and still allowed to happen. The punishment of the corporations and their individual officials must be sufficient to deter other corporations and corporate officials from also acting with such reckless indifference to human life and health.” said Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.
The organizations said that in 18 years the CBI had not even been able to bring the principal accused; Union Carbide, USA and its former Chairman Warren Anderson, to face trial. Further, because of CBI’s inept handling, a third foreign accused – Union Carbide Eastern Inc, Hong Kong has managed to escape the criminal proceedings altogether. “There is documentary evidence that Union Carbide, USA and Anderson knew that the Bhopal plant design was based on “untested technology”, they were in full control over operations and safety of the factory and it is they who directed reckless cost – cutting. Justice cannot be done in Bhopal till these principal accused are brought to trial” said Rashida Bee who has lost six people in her family due to the disaster.
According to the organizations, the CBI did nothing when Supreme Court’s Justice A M Ahmadi diluted the charges against the Indian accused in 1996. “Ahmadi converted the Bhopal disaster to the equivalent of a traffic accident. Without assessing the full evidence, he reduced the prison term for the crimes of Bhopal from 10 years to 2 years and the CBI made not a single effort to get this legally unsound order revised” said Syed M Irfan, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.
Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, one of the three organizations assisting the prosecution, said that glaring omissions in the CBI’s presentation of evidence against the Indian accused amounted to derogation of the prosecution’s duty. “The CBI failed to produce evidence regarding the role of Keshub Mahindra and other accused in deliberate acts undermining operational safety such as design modification, rewriting of operation manuals and decommissioning the crucial refrigeration unit.” he said.
He said that CBI’s “go soft” approach against corporate crime is also evident in its inaction against Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide, USA. “In January 2005 the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Bhopal issued notice to Dow Chemical, USA for producing its subsidiary Union Carbide in his court. For the last four years the CBI has chosen not to act on this.” he said.
The organizations said that the Prime Minister must accept responsibility for the failure of the CBI in its role as the prosecuting agency. They called for the creation of a Special Prosecution Cell for effective and timely action on extradition of foreign accused and prosecution of Dow Chemical.
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan,
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Rachna Dhingra, Satinath Sarangi,
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Children Against Dow Carbide