The former Union Carbide chairman, Warren Anderson, can still be tried in the Bhopal gas tragedy case if he is brought to India, as he is a “proclaimed offender,” Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said here on Tuesday. He simultaneously promised “within six months” a new stand-alone law to deal with manmade disasters, a law that would not “be vulnerable to judicial interpretation.”
Dismissing the claim made by the former Central Bureau of Investigation joint director, B.R. Lall (who had handled the investigation in 1994-95), that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had written to the CBI asking it not to pursue Mr. Anderson's extradition as “irresponsible,” Mr. Moily stressed, “After retirement, people try to become martyrs by making such statements.”
The United Progressive Alliance government found itself in an embarrassing position on Tuesday as victims and activists began to remind it that it was a Congress government that was in power in 1984, both at the Centre and in Madhya Pradesh, and that Mr. Anderson, who had come to India after the disaster, had been actually allowed to fly out of the country quietly.
Meanwhile, MEA sources too refuted Mr. Lall's contention, saying repeated requests for Mr. Anderson's extradition were turned down by the U.S. authorities on the plea that he was not personally culpable. Apparently, in 2003 a request for his extradition was made under the India-U.S. bilateral extradition treaty. That request had been reiterated, but with no results.
Mr. Moily added that “legally and technically” the case against Mr. Anderson was not over. “The case against him is still on ... he can be procured, he can still be tried,” he said, as Mr. Anderson's name figured in the charge sheet filed by the CBI in the case.
But when pressed on whether he would take up the issue again with the Prime Minister or the MEA, and whether the government would again try to extradite Mr. Anderson, he said he could not comment on that. But he repeated again that a stand-alone law for manmade disasters was needed and that provisions for class litigation needed to be explored. “Currently, there is no provision for class action. It is limited to insurance liability.”