Did India take US snub on Bhopal case lying down?

The deadly methyl isocyanate gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal on December 2, 1984, killed and injured several thousands in its wake.

April 04, 2015 04:08 am | Updated November 28, 2021 09:06 pm IST - Washington

India may not have been batting on the front foot for justice for its citizens despite being snubbed on its two extradition requests to the U.S. for Warren Anderson, the late and former CEO of Union Carbide Company, allegedly responsible for the worst industrial accident in modern India.

The deadly methyl isocyanate gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal on December 2, 1984, killed and injured several thousands in its wake.

A request filed here under India’s Right to Information Act on the steps New Delhi took to convince Washington to extradite Anderson, who died last September, received the response “Steps taken by Embassy of India, Washington to extradite Mr. Warren Anderson do not arise.”

The reason cited for this lack of action, detailed in the response to Somasundaram Kumaresamuthusamy, was that the first extradition request sent to the U.S. State Department on May 21, 2003, was rejected and “Their response is awaited” on the second request, which “has been forwarded to the relevant U.S. authorities on April 20, 2011.”

“Government of India’s request for extradition of Mr. Warren Anderson has not been agreed to by the U.S. side till date,” the Indian Embassy here said.

Arguing that the Bhopal gas case matter was still “sub-judice,” the Embassy declined to provide any documentation of its communications with the U.S. authorities on the subject, as that could “impede the process of extradition.” It cited Section 8(1)(a) and (h) of the RTI Act, 2005 in this regard.

“Date-wise actions taken by Embassy of India, Washington, cannot be provided,” for this reason, the response said.

In comments to The-Hindu, Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy said he had initially filed an RTI request in June 2010 after an Indian court announced the conviction of seven accused in the case.

At the time, former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake virtually ruled out further review of the investigation and refused to discuss the extradition of Anderson.

“The U.S. government in 2004 had at least officially rejected the earlier extradition request filed in 2003,” Mr. Kumaresamuthusamy said. “But to know that the latest request did not even merit a response from the U.S. government is shocking. This is at a time when India and U.S. claim to have the best bilateral relationship.”

If the tables were turned and a U.S. corporate criminal had fled to India, Washington would have used all its powers to push the Indian government — an approach New Delhi did not follow, he said.

In the recent past, the Bhopal cases filed as Sahu I and Sahu II in the U.S. have also run into dead ends, particularly after a New York judge declined, in July 2014, to allow the case brought by victims of the tragedy to proceed and ruled in favour of Union Carbide. This was despite attempts to present evidence from a UCC employee, Lucas John Couvaras, that allegedly demonstrated UCC’s involvement and ultimate responsibility for the gas leak.

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