Only country which defends foreign criminals

India is the only country which defends foreign criminals and let down its own citizens. This is evident from every day functioning of the Government. The culpable act of killing 20,000 and disabling more than 5,00,000 people in 1984 in Bhopal by the Union Carbide factory continues to disturb us even after 26 years. The reason is that the government of India let off the chief criminal, Warren Anderson without any punishment. If this was a mistake in the past, you are mistaken. In the Nuclear Liability Bill passed few months back in parliament, the UPA government want to repeat the same mistake by pleading for peanut compensation in case of any disaster. Unless this act of sacrificing its citizens lives for the mere political survival is dropped Naxalism type of violence cannot be stopped.
Nandita Rao writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 9th June 2010
In the world’s worst industrial disaster, commonly known as the Bhopal gas tragedy, we as citizens of India lost much more than 20,000 lives. Over the last 25 years, slowly but steadily, in several rounds of litigation, we lost our hope in the rule of law and in the ability of the judiciary, the custodial of our Constitution, to protect us against the greed and money power of multinational corporations. Reviewing the failures of the justice system in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is even more important today as we are debating the Nuclear Liability Bill which, in fact, is seeking to set maximum limits of liability on foreign companies and give them complete immunity from criminal prosecution.
In the context of Bhopal, for once the police authorities cannot be faulted as when the killer gas escaped from the Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL) factory on the night of December 2-3, 1984, killing thousands and affecting the lives and futures of lakhs of others, the station house officer of the Hanumanganj Police Station, Bhopal, at his own initiative lodged a first information report (FIR) for culpable homicide not amounting to murder (under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code), which penalises an act done with the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death and carries a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Not only was the police quick in lodging the FIR, but by December 7, 1984, all the accused, including Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide Corporation (USA), and the top management of its Indian subsidiary, UCIL, were arrested.
The instinct of this relatively junior police officer, when he saw people being eaten up by this toxic gas, that what he had witnessed was more than an accident was proved to be correct when the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation as early as December 6, 1989. The government of India constituted a scientific and technical committee, known as the Vardarajan Committee, which after evaluation of the UCIL plant and events gave its unequivocal finding that the plant design approved and installed under the directions of Union Carbide Corporation (USA), signed and approved personally by Mr Anderson, was defective and likely to cause a back flow of water and alkaline substances that could lead to the methyl isocyanate (MIC) becoming explosive. The committee also found that the safety norms, mandatory for the use and storage of a substance as dangerous and lethal as MIC, had been flagrantly violated. Even basic precautions, such as maintenance of an empty container for diversion and storage in the event of an emergency, had not been complied with.
However, the Supreme Court of India in its three judgments, from 1989 to 1996, failed to see what was obvious to a police officer. When the Government of India — which had assumed jurisdiction over the claims of all the victims by virtue of the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 — approached the Supreme Court to ratify a settlement it had entered into with the primary accused, Union Carbide Corporation (USA), in settlement of claims, including withdrawal of criminal prosecution, a three-judge bench accepted as a full and final settlement a sum of $470 million as compensation, blindly permitting the compounding of a non-compoundable criminal prosecution in violation of the statutory law of the land. The Supreme Court was forced to review its judgment in 1991 as civil society and victims’ organisations refused to accept this blatant abdication of its constitutional duty to protect the rights of citizens. The trial against Union Carbide was restarted in 1991, only to be stalled again by the accused who again approached the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of the charges on the grounds that the evidence did not make out any case against them. And yet again, taking a U-turn, the Supreme Court in 1996, by a judgment delivered by three of its esteemed judges, came to the conclusion that (a) admitting that the plant was constructed on a defective design; (b) admitting that safety norms were flouted in its running; (c) admitting that the accused knew how lethal MIC was, it could not be said that while working this plant they had knowledge that it could cause such a disaster. Based on this finding, in the third and final round of litigation before it, the Supreme Court whittled down the charges from culpable homicide to causing death by negligence (from Section 304-Part II to Section 304A), an offence of a much lower grade with a maximum punishment of two years.
Unfortunately, this judgment of the Supreme Court went unchallenged by victims’ organisations and was not highlighted by the media, leading to the tragic verdict handed out by chief judicial magistrate P. Mohan Tiwari on Monday, sentencing the accused to two years’ imprisonment, and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. This judgment has left us angry, despondent, crying out that it is too little and too late. One wonders how, of the 11 judges of our Supreme Court who had the opportunity to do justice to the people of Bhopal, all choose to interpret the law hyper-technically, justifying the callousness with which life is treated in the Third World.
While our despondency is justified, there still exists a possibility offered by the law that could enable the Supreme Court to rectify its own judgments even today. Under Article 137 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court may entertain a curative petition and reconsider its judgment/order in exercise of its inherent powers in order to prevent abuse of its process, to cure gross miscarriage of justice. Such a petition can be filed only if a senior advocate certifies that it meets the requirements of this case. The Supreme Court’s rules set no time limit within which the judgment can be curated and, therefore, it would be open to the Supreme Court to reconsider the law laid down by it which refuses to acknowledge that the flagrant violation of safety norms, with full knowledge of the disastrous consequences by a multinational corporation, constitutes culpable homicide.

India is the only country which defends foreign criminals and let down its own citizens. This is evident from every day functioning of the Government. The culpable act of killing 20,000 and disabling more than 5,00,000 people in 1984 in Bhopal by the Union Carbide factory continues to disturb us even after 26 years. The reason is that the government of India let off the chief criminal, Warren Anderson without any punishment. If this was a mistake in the past, you are mistaken. In the Nuclear Liability Bill passed few months back in parliament, the UPA government want to repeat the same mistake by pleading for peanut compensation in case of any disaster. Unless this act of sacrificing its citizens lives for the mere political survival is dropped Naxalism type of violence cannot be stopped.
Nandita Rao writes in The Deccan Chronicle on 9th June 2010

In the world’s worst industrial disaster, commonly known as the Bhopal gas tragedy, we as citizens of India lost much more than 20,000 lives. Over the last 25 years, slowly but steadily, in several rounds of litigation, we lost our hope in the rule of law and in the ability of the judiciary, the custodial of our Constitution, to protect us against the greed and money power of multinational corporations. Reviewing the failures of the justice system in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy is even more important today as we are debating the Nuclear Liability Bill which, in fact, is seeking to set maximum limits of liability on foreign companies and give them complete immunity from criminal prosecution.
In the context of Bhopal, for once the police authorities cannot be faulted as when the killer gas escaped from the Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL) factory on the night of December 2-3, 1984, killing thousands and affecting the lives and futures of lakhs of others, the station house officer of the Hanumanganj Police Station, Bhopal, at his own initiative lodged a first information report (FIR) for culpable homicide not amounting to murder (under Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code), which penalises an act done with the knowledge that such act is likely to cause death and carries a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. Not only was the police quick in lodging the FIR, but by December 7, 1984, all the accused, including Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide Corporation (USA), and the top management of its Indian subsidiary, UCIL, were arrested.
The instinct of this relatively junior police officer, when he saw people being eaten up by this toxic gas, that what he had witnessed was more than an accident was proved to be correct when the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation as early as December 6, 1989. The government of India constituted a scientific and technical committee, known as the Vardarajan Committee, which after evaluation of the UCIL plant and events gave its unequivocal finding that the plant design approved and installed under the directions of Union Carbide Corporation (USA), signed and approved personally by Mr Anderson, was defective and likely to cause a back flow of water and alkaline substances that could lead to the methyl isocyanate (MIC) becoming explosive. The committee also found that the safety norms, mandatory for the use and storage of a substance as dangerous and lethal as MIC, had been flagrantly violated. Even basic precautions, such as maintenance of an empty container for diversion and storage in the event of an emergency, had not been complied with.
However, the Supreme Court of India in its three judgments, from 1989 to 1996, failed to see what was obvious to a police officer. When the Government of India — which had assumed jurisdiction over the claims of all the victims by virtue of the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 — approached the Supreme Court to ratify a settlement it had entered into with the primary accused, Union Carbide Corporation (USA), in settlement of claims, including withdrawal of criminal prosecution, a three-judge bench accepted as a full and final settlement a sum of $470 million as compensation, blindly permitting the compounding of a non-compoundable criminal prosecution in violation of the statutory law of the land. The Supreme Court was forced to review its judgment in 1991 as civil society and victims’ organisations refused to accept this blatant abdication of its constitutional duty to protect the rights of citizens. The trial against Union Carbide was restarted in 1991, only to be stalled again by the accused who again approached the Supreme Court seeking the quashing of the charges on the grounds that the evidence did not make out any case against them. And yet again, taking a U-turn, the Supreme Court in 1996, by a judgment delivered by three of its esteemed judges, came to the conclusion that (a) admitting that the plant was constructed on a defective design; (b) admitting that safety norms were flouted in its running; (c) admitting that the accused knew how lethal MIC was, it could not be said that while working this plant they had knowledge that it could cause such a disaster. Based on this finding, in the third and final round of litigation before it, the Supreme Court whittled down the charges from culpable homicide to causing death by negligence (from Section 304-Part II to Section 304A), an offence of a much lower grade with a maximum punishment of two years.Unfortunately, this judgment of the Supreme Court went unchallenged by victims’ organisations and was not highlighted by the media, leading to the tragic verdict handed out by chief judicial magistrate P. Mohan Tiwari on Monday, sentencing the accused to two years’ imprisonment, and a fine of Rs 1 lakh.
This judgment has left us angry, despondent, crying out that it is too little and too late. One wonders how, of the 11 judges of our Supreme Court who had the opportunity to do justice to the people of Bhopal, all choose to interpret the law hyper-technically, justifying the callousness with which life is treated in the Third World.
While our despondency is justified, there still exists a possibility offered by the law that could enable the Supreme Court to rectify its own judgments even today. Under Article 137 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court may entertain a curative petition and reconsider its judgment/order in exercise of its inherent powers in order to prevent abuse of its process, to cure gross miscarriage of justice. Such a petition can be filed only if a senior advocate certifies that it meets the requirements of this case. The Supreme Court’s rules set no time limit within which the judgment can be curated and, therefore, it would be open to the Supreme Court to reconsider the law laid down by it which refuses to acknowledge that the flagrant violation of safety norms, with full knowledge of the disastrous consequences by a multinational corporation, constitutes culpable homicide.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: