BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Urdu Hindi Pashto Bengali Tamil Nepali Sinhala
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: South Asia  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Bhopal 'charges could be reduced'
Masked protesters demonstrate outside court against the moves
Masked protesters demonstrated outside court
A court in the central Indian city of Bhopal is considering whether to reduce charges against a former Union Carbide official arising out of one of the world's worst industrial disasters.


If victims are going to be sacrificed for preserving business relations with the United States, I think it's a matter of great shame

S Muralidhar
lawyer
Thousands of people in Bhopal died in December 1984 after a gas leak at a chemical factory owned by Union Carbide, which is now defunct.

The court is considering an application from the Indian Government to reduce the gravity of criminal charges against the American former chief of the company, Warren Anderson, who is accused of culpable homicide.

Although the hearing began on Tuesday, the court postponed making a decision, and is now expected to rule on Wednesday.

A reduction in charges would bring the case against Mr Anderson in line with Indian former company officials, who have already succeeded in getting their charges watered down to negligence.

The trial heard from witnesses on Tuesday who used to work at the factory.

One affirmed prosecution charges that key machinery there was malfunctioning at the time of the disaster.

That includes filtering equipment and a cooling system, both of which would probably have prevented the gas leak or softened its effects.

'Absconder'

Nearly 18 years on, the disaster at the Union Carbide pesticide factory is a continuing nightmare for the people of Bhopal.

More than 3,000 people died within hours, mostly in agony, when a storage tank burst, sending tonnes of deadly gases over the sleeping city.

Victims of the Bhopal disaster
Within hours, 3,000 people had died
In all, more than 20,000 deaths have been linked to the disaster.

More than 100,000 people are ill, including babies still being born to victims today.

Warren Anderson vanished from public view in the US, and is now defined in Indian law as an absconder.

But India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has applied for the court to reduce charges to one of a "rash and negligent act" which would carry a maximum prison sentence of two years.

Gas leak victims and their supporters believe that Delhi has succumbed to pressure from Dow Chemical, the company which took over Union Carbide.

They believe the government is anxious not to scare away foreign investors and they say it is right that Mr Anderson, as the overall company leader, should continue to be accused of homicide.

Blame 'useless'

Gas leak victims in the city are angry and have been staging protests for several weeks.

Bhopal victim
The government wants homicide charges dropped
S Muralidhar, a lawyer for many of them, says he cannot understand why the Indian Government is lessening its accusation.

"If the Bhopal victims are going to be sacrificed for preserving business relations with the United States, I think it's a matter of great shame," Mr Muralidhar said.

But Prabhat Gupta, who used to work inside the pesticide plant, says it is useless to blame anyone for the gas leak.

He insists the company did care about safety.

"As a whole, we definitely feel that the measures taken by the organisation and the company, they were really excellent."

Either way, given that the Indian Government has not yet put in an extradition request, correspondents say the chances of Warren Anderson appearing in an Indian courtroom appear slim.

See also:

26 Aug 02 | South Asia
03 Dec 99 | South Asia
03 Dec 99 | South Asia
16 Nov 99 | South Asia
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes