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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Analysis: Little hope for Bhopal victims
graffiti on the wall of the compound of the Union Carbide factory
The gas leak at Bhopal killed thousands

Thousands of people in Bhopal died in 1984 after a gas - methyl isocynate - leaked from American company Union Carbide's chemical factory.


India's Attorney General Soli Sorabjee has said that given the time that has elapsed and Mr Anderson's age - believed to be 81 - an extradition can be ruled out

Victims and voluntary groups involved in helping the survivors - thousands still suffer terrible side-effects and ailments - were outraged when the Indian Government recently decided to try to reduce the charge against the former Union Carbide head, Warren Anderson, from culpable homicide to negligence.

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

But a judge in Bhopal rejected the government's application, arguing that, unlike the Indian officials, Mr Anderson had not applied to any Indian court to have his charges reduced so there was no reason to do so.

'Too old'

Bhopal victim
Many still complain of side-effects
The chances of him being extradited to face charges in India are, however, extremely unlikely.

In the first place, his whereabouts are unknown.

Secondly, the Indian Government has shown no desire to start extradition proceedings against him.

Finally, India's Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee, has said that given the time that has elapsed and Mr Anderson's age - believed to be 81 - an extradition can be ruled out.

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.

Legal delay

Over the years, the death toll has risen to nearly 15,000 as those affected by the gas later died.

Survivors still complain of ailments ranging from cardiac problems to tuberculosis.

Abdul Jabbar, who heads the Bhopal gas victims' organisation, says that 18 years later, the case is still being heard in a lower court.

Legal delays in India are colossal because 20 million cases are pending.

It is routine for people to have to wait 10-20 years for a verdict.

Mr Jabbar says a special court should have been set up to hear the case.

He is also appalled that some victims are still waiting to receive their share of the $470m that Union Carbide paid the Indian Government as a final settlement when it accepted "moral responsibility".

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28 Aug 02 | South Asia
26 Aug 02 | South Asia
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