Ex-manager deposes before Chief Judicial Magistrate

`Maintenance campaign was launched between September and November 1984' Rejects allegations levelled against him; urges court to absolve him of all charges

Bhopal: A former senior official of the Union Carbide's pesticide plant on Friday denied that lax security measures had resulted in the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, which claimed thousands of lives and affected several lakh people.

Deposing before Chief Judicial Magistrate Ravindra Kumar in a criminal case related to the tragedy, the then Union Carbide India Limited production manager S.P. Choudhary, in his written statement, said there was no laxity in security arrangements in the factory.

The CBI and other investigating agencies had not succeeded in establishing a strong reason behind the tragedy. However, allegations were levelled that the factory's design was faulty. The pesticide plant was spread over an area of seven-eight acre land and functioned round the clock. He said it was wrong to say that inadequate safety measures at the plant, facing closure due to economic reasons led to the incident. In fact, a simple maintenance campaign was launched between September and November 1984. Mr Choudhary rejected allegations levelled against him and urged the court to absolve him of all charges.

Then UCIL non-executive chairman Keshub Mahindra and the then UCIL vice-chairman Kishore Kamdar recorded their statements yesterday.

The statement of then shift supervisor Shakeel Qureshi was recorded on Friday.

Voluntary organisations Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti and Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sagathan, who are the intervenors in the case, urged the court to consider their earlier application for asking a few more questions from the accused. Earlier, eight main accused including Mr Mahindra, Mr Choudhary, Mr Qureshi, the then UCIL works manager J. Mukund had appeared together in February.

-- UNI