(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 13, 2010
25 LONG YEARS OF INJUSTICE
Sadhna Karnik Pradhan & N D Jayaprakash
The details of
the verdict that has now come in the
Reacting to the
verdict, the Madhya Pradesh state
committee of the CPI(M) has castigated the dismal and contrived failure
successive Congress and BJP government even in bringing to book the
Carbide boss Warren Anderson, the main accused in the
MORE than 25 years ago,
inhabitants of the city of
OF THE CASE
On February 20, 1985, the
November 22, 1986: UOI announced that the amount it would claim as damages from UCC exceeded 3000 million US dollars.
November 26, 1986: On the
initiative of Sadhna Karnik
Pradhan, the Zahreeli Gas Kand Sangharsh Morcha and Jana Swasthya
historical first application before the
December 16, 1986: UCC filed a written statement in reply to the Interveners’ plea in Regular Suit No. 1113/86 contending that they are not liable.
February 2, 1987: In suit No.
1113/86 filed by the UOI
on 5/9/1986, district judge of
December 1, 1987: CBI filed
charge sheet in the
criminal case before the chief judicial magistrate (CJM) of
December 17, 1987: As a consequence of the proposal mooted by the interveners on November 26, 1986 and the suo moto proposal put forward by the court on February 2, 1987, the district court of Bhopal ordered the UCC to pay an interim compensation of Rs 350 crore ($270 million) to the Bhopal gas victims.
January 29, 1988: UOI eventually filed the Amended Plaint in the district court of Bhopal furnishing all material particulars and quantifying the approximate value of the total claims (531,770 till then) at Rs 3,900 crore (3 billion US dollars), excluding punitive damages, interests, and costs of the suit.
February 4, 1988: Hearing in the
(R.T.No.2792/87) began before the CJM,
April 4, 1988: On UCC’s appeal (revision petition No.26/88), the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur modified the order of the Bhopal district court dated December 17, 1987 in Regular Suit No.1113/86 and ordered UCC to pay an interim compensation of Rs 250 crore only.
May 2, 1988: UCC filed review petition (MCC No.172 of 1988) in the High Court against the order of the High Court dated April 4, 1988 in revision petition No.26/88 in suit No.1113/88. (UCC also filed a petition for special leave to appeal (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the same order.)
July 6, 1988: CJM Bhopal issued
letter rogatory to the
July 8, 1988: UOI filed SLP (No.8718 of 1988) in the Supreme Court against the High Court order dated 04/04/1988 in revision petition No.26/88.
September 8, 1988: The Supreme Court admitted both UCC’s and UOI’s SLPs against the High Court order dated 04/4/1988 in revision petition No.26/88 as Civil Appeals No.3187-3188 of 1988.
September 8, 1988: The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS) filed a petition seeking interim relief for the gas victims before the Supreme Court.
November 15, 1988: The CJM Bhopal issued bailable arrest warrant against Warren Anderson, accused No.1, for his non-appearance in the criminal case. He was ordered to be present in Court on February 9, 1989.
February 9, 1989: When it became
clear that Warren
Anderson, accused No.1, had been deliberately avoiding to be present in
court, the CJM Bhopal, after accepting the CBI’s application,
February 14, 1989:
The US administration granted permission to the CBI to inspect
safety systems of the UCC’s pesticide plant at Institute,
February 14-15, 1989: In the midst of the ongoing hearing in the matter pertaining to payment of interim compensation (C.A. No.3187-88 of 1988) before the Supreme Court, there was a Court assisted settlement of the main suit itself. After withdrawing the original suit pending in the Bhopal Court before it and disposing of the same without adjudicating the issue in question, the Supreme Court directed that there be an overall settlement of the claims in the suit for $470 million (about Rs 713 crore) and termination of all civil and criminal proceedings.
(The quickness with which the settlement was arrived at gave rise to two pertinent questions:
(1) Did the CJM’s decision on
February 9, 1989 to
issue non-bailable warrant of arrest against UCC’s chairman Warren
(2) Why were gas victims not served notice by way of public pronouncements regarding the terms of the proposed settlement before the UOI decided to agree to the settlement?
What was equally intriguing was the manner in which the magnitude of the disaster was quantified. Although at the time of the settlement the State Govt. had processed only a fraction of the then total 5,97,908 claims that had been filed, the UOI misled the Court into believing that the total number of gas affected was only about 105,000 (including 3000 fatal cases). The fact was that there was absolutely no basis for the UOI to come to the arbitrary conclusion that the total number of gas affected was only about 105,000. On the other hand, the charge sheet filed by the CBI before the CJM Bhopal on 01/12/1987, showed that the number of affected persons was more than 500,000! There is irrefutable evidence that the UOI had, indeed, misled the Court regarding the size of the casualty figures. The fact remains that the Claim Courts have subsequently determined that the total number of victims were actually 574,367. However, the Settlement sum of 470 million US dollars (Rs 713 crore at the 1989 exchange value), which was to be disbursed among 105,000 gas victims, was not enhanced proportionately. Instead, the same was spread thin and disbursed among the said 574,367 gas victims, which effectively meant that the compensation amount that each gas-victim on an average was awarded was less than one-fifth of the amount that he/she should have received as per the terms of the settlement.)
February 19, 1989: Formation of Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS), a broad coalition consisting of nearly 30 all-India and Delhi-based organisations representing workers, scientists, teachers, lawyers, artists, women, youth, students, along with concerned individuals, who came together to support the struggle of the Bhopal gas victims for justice.
February/March 1989: Public protest against the unjust settlement followed by filing of a number of review and writ petitions against the settlement in the Supreme Court by the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sanghathan (BGPMUS), the Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS) and other concerned groups.
January 12, 1990: As a result of
intense lobbying by
BGPMUS, BGPSSS and other victim-groups, the new National Front
by prime minister V P Singh decided to disburse interim relief to all
affected people in the 36 gas exposed municipal wards of
February 3, 1990: Three ministers of the union cabinet --- Madhu Dandavate (finance minister), Gurupada Swami (minister for petroleum and chemicals), and Dinesh Goswami (minister for law and justice) --- met the representatives of BGPMUS, BGPSSS, BGIA and other groups at a joint meeting to work out modalities of paying interim relief to the victims of the gas disaster.
March 05, 1990: The National Front government announced the decision to sanction Rs 360 crore from its own resources as interim relief to the Bhopal gas victims for three years, that is, to pay Rs 200 per person per month as interim relief to all residents (i.e., to over 5,00,000 victims) present in the 36 gas affected wards of Bhopal on the night of the disaster.
October 3, 1991: In response to review and writ petitions filed by BGPMUS, BGPSSS and others, the Supreme Court of India, while upholding the settlement amount, revoked the criminal immunity granted to UCC and all other accused in the Bhopal gas leak disaster case.
November 11, 1991 Criminal cases
against all the
accused were revived in the CJM’s court at
December 7, 1991: Accused No. 2 to 9 and 12 responded to the summons and presented themselves before the CJM in R.T. No.2792/87. Accused No. 1, 10 and 11 were absent. The CJM issued proclamations ordering accused No.1, 10, and 11 to be present before the Court on February 1, 1992.
OF UNION CARBIDE
February 1, 1992: The CJM
declared Warren Anderson,
UCC (USA) and Union Carbide Eastern (
March 20, 1992: After being
proclaimed an absconder on
February 1, 1992, UCC (USA) secretly set up the so-called Bhopal
in London (UK) with Ian Percival (a former solicitor general of
March 27, 1992: The CJM Bhopal
warrant of arrest against accused No.1, Warren Anderson, and ordered
the UOI to
seek extradition of
April 15, 1992: UCC chairman
Robert Kennedy announced
that UCC had endowed all its shares in UCIL (which were liable to be
as per the order of the CJM Bhopal dated February 1, 1992) to the
Bhopal Hospital Trust set up in
April 30, 1992:
In response to the applications filed by the CBI, BGPSSS, Bhopal
for Information and Action (BGIA), and BGPMUS, the CJM,
April 8, 1993: The Sessions Court, Bhopal, framed charges against accused No. 2 to 9 & 12 (eight officials of UCIL and the company UCIL) for punishable offences under Sections 304 Part II, 326, 324 and 429 of IPC read with Section 35 of IPC.
July 4, 1994: BGPSSS, BGIA and BGPMUS filed applications before the court of the CJM, Bhopal, in Miscellaneous Judicial Case (MJC) No.1991 of 1992 urging the court to direct the CBI to execute the letter rogatory issued by the CJM on July 6, 1988. The applicants also submitted a copy of the video documentary produced by Granada Television titled “The Betrayal of Bhopal,” which was produced in June 1985 and which had details of the adoption of duel safety standards by UCC.
October 7, 1994: In para 4 of the order issued on this date in MJC No.91 of 1992, the CJM Bhopal observed as follows:
“It is clear in this regard
after perusal of order
dated April 30, 1992 passed by the chief judicial magistrate,
In para 6 of the same order, the CJM ordered as follows:
“In the light of the facts of
the above mentioned
case, it becomes clear after considering the position of the applicant
organisations that they are directly related to the organisations of
Furthermore, the CJM noted the following in para 7(a) of the order:
“The transcript of Granada
Television which has been
mentioned along with the application can undisputedly be valuable
evidence. The comparative study of the
safety systems of the plant at (West)
August 1, 1995: The Jabalpur High Court dismissed the revision petitions (Cr.R. No. 237/93, 238/93, 311/93 and 312/93) filed by accused No. 2 to 9 and 12 on 27/4/1993 against the order of the Sessions Court, Bhopal, dated 08/04/1993 in S.T. No.257/92.
September 13, 1996: In Criminal
Appeals No.1672-75 of
1996, filed before the Supreme Court by accused No.2 to 9 and 12 in the
gas leak disaster case, the court reduced charges against the accused
Section 304-Part-II of IPC to Section 304-A, i.e., from a charge of
homicide to a case of negligence. Subsequently, the trial against the
proceeded before the court of the CJM,
November 30, 1996: BGPSSS filed a petition before the Supreme Court, seeking permission to be impleaded as Party-Respondent in the Criminal Appeals and to permit them to seek review of the Supreme Court judgement that set aside the High Court order.
December 24, 1996: Vide an order on this date, the CJM granted permission to BGPMUS and BGPSSS to assist the prosecution in the present case, i.e., R.T. No.8460 of 1996.
March 10, 1997: The Supreme Court summarily dismissed the plea of BGPSSS against reduction of charges against the said accused No. 2 to 9 and 12 from Section 304 Part II to Section 304-A at the preliminary hearing on this day, without going into the merits of the plea and without issuing a reasoned order.
[At the instance of BGPSSS, BGPMUS and BGIA, four crucial prosecution witnesses (PWs) appeared in the case, namely: Kamal Pareek (former safety officer of UCIL, PW 164); Hattim Jariwala (former workers’ union leader, PW 165); Shahnawaz Khan (a Bhopal based lawyer, PW 169); and Raajkumar Keshwani (the Bhopal based journalist, who had issued the fore-warning regarding the potential threat from the Bhopal plant, PW 172)].
May 8, 2006: BGPSSS & BGPMUS filed an Application for Directions in R.T. No.8460 of 1996 urging the court to direct the accused to provide answers to a set of questions that the applicants had put forward.
July 12, 2006: BGPSSS & BGPMUS filed another Application for Directions in R.T. No.8460 of 1996 urging the court to direct the CBI to carry out further investigations in the US, especially the comparative study of the safety systems that UCC had installed in the MIC units at the Institute (West Virginia, USA) and the Bhopal plants.
August 22, 2006: In response to
the application filed
by BGPSSS & BGPMUS on July 12, 2006, the CBI admitted that “The LR
rogatory issued by the CJM
April 28, 2007: BGPSSS & BGPMUS filed another Application for Directions under Section 39 & Section 221(2) of CrPC 1973 and Sections 15, 63 & 136 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872 urging the court to admit as secondary evidence the video documentary titled “The Betrayal of Bhopal,” which had been submitted to the court as early as July 4, 1994.
July 20, 2009: BGPSSS & BGPMUS filed another Application for Directions under Section 15 of the Evidence Act 1872 & Section 105B of CrPC urging the court to initiate punitive action against the concerned public servants for non-execution of the letter rogatory issued by the CJM on July 6, 1988.
February 22, 2010: Examination of prosecution witnesses and defence witnesses in R.T. No.8460 of 1996 against accused No.2 to 9 and 12 (UCIL and its officials) concluded before the court of the CJM Bhopal.
March 22, 2010: Final hearing in R.T No.8460 of 1996 begins.
April 26, 2010: BGPSSS & BGPMUS filed another Application for Directions under Section 216 CrPC for enhancing the charges against the accused to Section 304 Part II of IPC from Section 304 A IPC on the basis of the evidence already placed before the Court by 178 prosecution witnesses and 8 defence witnesses. The CJM rejected the application on the same date.
May 19, 2010: Final hearing in R.T. No.8460 of 1996 concludes.
It may be noted that the CBI in para 25 of the charge sheet, which was filed against the accused before the CJM Bhopal on December 1, had noted as follows:
“Due to the complicated nature
of the case and certain
difficulties that were encountered in the investigation, some further
investigation still remains to be done which is proposed to be
submission of this charge sheet. While the control exercised by Union
Eastern Inc, Hong Kong, over UCIL has been proved during the
the records of UCIL, this requires to be further confirmed by
concerned executives of the
Till date the Union of India has
not permitted the CBI
to carry out the necessary investigations in Hong Kong and
(Sadhna Karnik Pradhan is the
convenor and N D Jayaprakash, the co-convenor of the