Keshub Mahindra returned to Bhopal today to present a statement in defence inside the court in which he is charged with criminal negligence. Proceedings have been discontinuously underway for almost nineteen years. When Mahindra attended proceedings at the same court in February, survivors organised a furious reception.
What follows is a hurried copy of Mahindra’s words.
Statement of Keshub Mahindra
I Keshub Mahindra son of Late Kailshchandra Mahindra permanent resident of Mumbai aged 82 years residing at 9 & 10 St Helen’s Court, Deshmukh Marg, Mumbai.
Mahindra outside the Bhopal court in February
I deny all the charges framed against me in above case. I say that there is no evidence to sustain the charges framed against me.
“At the very outset I wish to state that the accident were a tragic and sad one. Although i was chairman of the company the day to day management of this company was with the Managing Director and his team of professionals and experts. My interaction in respect of the affairs of Union Carbide India Limited was only with Board members and invitees to Board meetings or in the shareholders meeting and only in respect of the policy issues and policy matters that were placed before the Board of Directors or for its deliberations and discussions. I resigned as Chairman and Director of UCIL on 19th September 1986.”
“Besides contributing to the areas of business and industry, I have also contributed in myriad fields like those of academics, culture, legal and social reforms, philanthropy, governmental committees, international institutes.”
“UCIL had 14 manufacturing plants all over the country which provided employment to 9000 employees.”
“In view of my Non-executive capacity, as other non-executive Directors, I was not aware of the detailed operations of the plants including the plant at Bhopal.”
“As Chairman, my responsibilities were to chair the meetings of the Board of Directors and meeting shareholders in accordance with Articles of Association.”
“None of the matters referred to in the evidence before the court was brought before the Board of Directors or to my attention or knowledge.”
“I believe that the Company appointed experts and professionals of caliber to manage the operations of the Company ion a day to day basis and since there was virtually not a a single incident of lack of safety that was reported to the Board in respect of many of the plants, the Board of Directors believed that the company was being run in a professional and safe manner.”
“I learnt of the leakage of the gas from the Bhopal plant in the morning of 3rd December 1984 when i received a call from the Managing Director Mr Gokhale. I was informed that all necessary steps were being taken by the Company to minimize the problem though nobody at that time knew the magnitude of the incident.”
“Mr Gokhale informed me that he was flying down to Bhopal on 5th December 1984. He went and met the Chief Minister and pledged all support from UCIL. On 7th December 1984 I along with UCC Chairman Mr Warren Anderson also flew down to Bhopal to meet the Chief Minister to provide any support that may be required. However, shortly after landing I along with various other persons was arrested.”
“At the Board meeting the Board was kept informed of the excellent safety record of the various safety plants of the Company. To the best of my knowledge only one incident of an accident in the Bhopal plant in 1982 was brought to our notice. We were however, informed that the incident was a result of the employee not taking safety precautions as advised by the Company. The Board in 1984 was also informed that the Bhopal plant has received a safety award and a congratulatory message regarding the safety of the plant from the then Chief Minister Shri Arjun Singh, Labour Minister Shri Shyam Sundar Patidar and from the National Safety Council and Union Carbide Corporation.”
“As a member of the Board of Directors of UCIL I say that the Board of Directors of the Company took all possible steps as were consistent with law and safety to protect the health and safety of the employees and citizens and run its business and plants in accordance with law and high manufacturing and safety standards.”
Extracts of Keshub Mahindra’s CV:
1985 : Companion, British Institute of Management
1987 Chevalier De La Lagion D’honneur
Government bodies :
President Emeritus : Employers Federation of India
President : Governing Council University of Pennsylvania Institute for the Advanced Study of India
Positions held in 1984 :
Non-executive Chairman of :
Remington Rand of India
Non Executive Director of :
Bombay Dying & Manufacturing Company Ltd.
Tata Iron and Steel Company
The India Hotels
The other non-executive Directors of UCIL:
A W Lutz [UCC Nominee] F J Costello [UCC Nominee] P C Mannix [UCC Nominee] R Natarajan [UCC Nominee] R E Brindley [UCC Nominee] J M Rehfield [UCC Nominee] J B Law [39, Old Ridgebury Road, Danbury, CT, USA] A M M Arunachalam
N N Lahiri
J N Saxena