‘Explain why summons not served on Dow Chemicals’

Co. fails to appear in court for sixth time since 2014

November 16, 2019 10:06 pm | Updated 10:08 pm IST - Bhopal

The Dow logo is seen at the entrance to Dow Chemical headquarters in Midland, Michigan May 14, 2015.  Photo taken May 14, 2015. To Match Special Report DOWCHEMICAL-HOTEL/  REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

The Dow logo is seen at the entrance to Dow Chemical headquarters in Midland, Michigan May 14, 2015. Photo taken May 14, 2015. To Match Special Report DOWCHEMICAL-HOTEL/ REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

A Bhopal court has asked the Union Home Ministry to explain why it had repeatedly been unable to summon the Dow Chemicals Company to appear before it in a case relating to the Bhopal gas tragedy.

The U.S.-based firm failed to show up at the Court of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate , Bhopal, on November 13 despite being issued a show cause notice in May.

For the sixth time since 2014, the Court’s notices had gone unheeded.

“We issue a show-cause notice on the Under Secretary, IS-II division, the Union Home Ministry, to appear before us on January 20 to explain why it had been unable to serve summons on the firm,” said Prakash Damor, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate.

The direction came in response to an application moved by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, a rights group working for the survivors, providing legal assistance to the Central Bureau of Investigation in the CBI vs Warren Anderson and others case.

‘Wilfully ignored’

In the application, Rachna Dhingra, a member, claimed the U.S. government had “wilfully ignored or obstructed all notices sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs” to make the firm appear in the Court. This was despite reminders sent to it by the Ministry in September and October.

Anderson was the Chairman of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in 1984, when a methyl isocyanate leak from its pesticide plant here killed thousands and caused deformities and congenital diseases in lakhs.

After it was acquired by the Dow Chemical Company as a wholly-owned subsidiary in 2001, the firm’s assets and liabilities (civil as well as criminal) were deemed to be transferred as well.

The Court in 1992 had proclaimed Anderson and the UCC absconders for failing to appear before it.

‘Prompt actions’

Stating that India and the U.S. were in a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty since 2001, M.K. Chahar, Under Secretary at the Centre, wrote to the group in September that “prompt actions are taken by the legal cell of the Ministry on each request of the service of summons”.

The request for summons was sent to the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) on May 30, the day it was received by the Ministry from the CBI, wrote Mr. Chahar. And in July, the U.S. government confirmed its receipt adding it was “under review” by Linda McKinney, trial attorney.

The CBI, in a submission before the Court on November 12, claimed the Ministry had sent reminders to the DoJ requesting “expeditious steps for the service of summons”.

However, it said, the service report, which details the progress of the service of summons, was still awaited.

‘Died a free man’

“For the past five years the CBI has been giving the same excuse that they have been unable to make the firm appear before the Court. Mr. Anderson died a free man as the Centre was unable to get him extradited from the U.S. Now, it’s the same situation all over again,” said Ms. Dhingra.

Alleging the U.S. had been violating the treaty, Ms. Dhingra said the Centre had not found the courage to call them out for the fear of losing out on foreign investment.

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