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7 convicted in Bhopal gas tragedy case

By The Assam Tribune

BHOPAL, June 7 � Nearly 26 years after the world�s worst industrial disaster left more than 15,000 dead in the Bhopal gas tragedy, former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others were today convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment in a judgement that came under attack from civil rights activists and parties, reports PTI.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari held the 85-year-old non-executive chairman of the Indian subsidiary of the US based company and gave them punishment under less stringent provisions of the Indian Penal Code for causing death by negligence.

89-year-old Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of USA, who lives in the United States, appeared to have gone scot free for the present as he is still an absconder and did not not subject himself to trial. There was no no word about him in the judgement delivered by CJM Tiwari 23 years after trial commenced.

The US based company reacted to the judgement saying neither it nor its officials were subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian court since they were not involved in the operation of the plant, which was owned and operated by Union Carbide India Limited.

In his 93-page verdict, Tiwari said the accused were not sentenced under section 304 IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder that provides a maximum of life imprisonment) since they were old age and were suffering from serious ailments including heart disease.

Others sentenced were Vijay Gokhle, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, the then Vice President, J N Mukund, the then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, the then Production Manager, K V Shetty, the then Plant Superintendent and S I Quereshi, the then Production Assistant.

All the convicts applied for bail immediately after the sentencing and were granted relief on a surety of Rs 25,000 each.

The judgement comes against the backdrop of a debate on the Civil Nuclear Liability bill which national opposition parties fear does not have provisions for making foreign suppliers give adequate compensation to victims of nuclear disasters.

Tiwari pronounced the verdict in a packed court room convicting 85-year-old Mahindra, the non-executive former Chairman of UCIL, and seven others in the case relating to leakage of deadly methyl isocyanate gas in the night intervening Dec 2 and 3, 1984.

They were held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) and 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.

The UCIL Calcutta was also convicted under the same sections and was awarded a maximum fine of Rs five lakh apart from the smaller amounts.

Mahindra, who had declined a Padma Bhushan award in 2002 on grounds that he was facing trial in the case, and six others were present to hear the judgement while Quereshi was represented by his counsel.

They were sentenced to two years imprisonment and awarded a fine of Rs. One lakh each under section 304(a), imprisonment of 3 months and a fine of Rs.250 under Sec 336, 6 months and Rs.500 under Sec 337 and 2 years and Rs.1,000 under Sec 338. All the sentences will run concurrently.

Civil rights activists fighting for the families of victims of the disaster called the judgement �too little, too late� and accused the prosecution and CBI of failing the victims by diluting the charges.

They said the message from the judgement would be that foreign investors could come and set up deadly industries and get away after �killing and maiming� people.

Disappointed with the verdict, scores of gas victims staged a protest inside the District and Sessions premises where they shouted slogans against Anderson.

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily described the verdict as an example of �justice buried� and said there was need for fast-tracking such cases and ensuring proper investigation.

The BJP termed the order as �painful� and said the prosecution should appeal against the lower punishment. It also utilised the opportunity to reconsider the provisions of the nuclear liability bill.

CPI D Raja said the verdict was �too little, too late� and accused the CBI of failure to bring to justice foreigners charged in the case.

Judge Tiwari gave 30 days time to the convicts to appeal against the judgement. He also ordered immediate production of eighth convict Quereshi.

The judgement was delivered amidst tight security in the court complex with media and even some lawyers representing gas victims were not not allowed inside.

The Indian subsidiary of the Union Carbide was also fined a sum of Rs. 5 lakh, besides the fines of Rs.250, Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 under various sections.

Defence lawyers said that since all the guilty were old and facing a number of serious ailments, leniency should be shown in giving them punishment.

They also contended that the Supreme Court had ruled in cases where victims were given compensation and the accident was totally unintentional, the criminal liability should be minimum. PTI

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7 convicted in Bhopal gas tragedy case

BHOPAL, June 7 � Nearly 26 years after the world�s worst industrial disaster left more than 15,000 dead in the Bhopal gas tragedy, former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others were today convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment in a judgement that came under attack from civil rights activists and parties, reports PTI.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari held the 85-year-old non-executive chairman of the Indian subsidiary of the US based company and gave them punishment under less stringent provisions of the Indian Penal Code for causing death by negligence.

89-year-old Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of USA, who lives in the United States, appeared to have gone scot free for the present as he is still an absconder and did not not subject himself to trial. There was no no word about him in the judgement delivered by CJM Tiwari 23 years after trial commenced.

The US based company reacted to the judgement saying neither it nor its officials were subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian court since they were not involved in the operation of the plant, which was owned and operated by Union Carbide India Limited.

In his 93-page verdict, Tiwari said the accused were not sentenced under section 304 IPC (culpable homicide not amounting to murder that provides a maximum of life imprisonment) since they were old age and were suffering from serious ailments including heart disease.

Others sentenced were Vijay Gokhle, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, the then Vice President, J N Mukund, the then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, the then Production Manager, K V Shetty, the then Plant Superintendent and S I Quereshi, the then Production Assistant.

All the convicts applied for bail immediately after the sentencing and were granted relief on a surety of Rs 25,000 each.

The judgement comes against the backdrop of a debate on the Civil Nuclear Liability bill which national opposition parties fear does not have provisions for making foreign suppliers give adequate compensation to victims of nuclear disasters.

Tiwari pronounced the verdict in a packed court room convicting 85-year-old Mahindra, the non-executive former Chairman of UCIL, and seven others in the case relating to leakage of deadly methyl isocyanate gas in the night intervening Dec 2 and 3, 1984.

They were held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) and 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.

The UCIL Calcutta was also convicted under the same sections and was awarded a maximum fine of Rs five lakh apart from the smaller amounts.

Mahindra, who had declined a Padma Bhushan award in 2002 on grounds that he was facing trial in the case, and six others were present to hear the judgement while Quereshi was represented by his counsel.

They were sentenced to two years imprisonment and awarded a fine of Rs. One lakh each under section 304(a), imprisonment of 3 months and a fine of Rs.250 under Sec 336, 6 months and Rs.500 under Sec 337 and 2 years and Rs.1,000 under Sec 338. All the sentences will run concurrently.

Civil rights activists fighting for the families of victims of the disaster called the judgement �too little, too late� and accused the prosecution and CBI of failing the victims by diluting the charges.

They said the message from the judgement would be that foreign investors could come and set up deadly industries and get away after �killing and maiming� people.

Disappointed with the verdict, scores of gas victims staged a protest inside the District and Sessions premises where they shouted slogans against Anderson.

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily described the verdict as an example of �justice buried� and said there was need for fast-tracking such cases and ensuring proper investigation.

The BJP termed the order as �painful� and said the prosecution should appeal against the lower punishment. It also utilised the opportunity to reconsider the provisions of the nuclear liability bill.

CPI D Raja said the verdict was �too little, too late� and accused the CBI of failure to bring to justice foreigners charged in the case.

Judge Tiwari gave 30 days time to the convicts to appeal against the judgement. He also ordered immediate production of eighth convict Quereshi.

The judgement was delivered amidst tight security in the court complex with media and even some lawyers representing gas victims were not not allowed inside.

The Indian subsidiary of the Union Carbide was also fined a sum of Rs. 5 lakh, besides the fines of Rs.250, Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 under various sections.

Defence lawyers said that since all the guilty were old and facing a number of serious ailments, leniency should be shown in giving them punishment.

They also contended that the Supreme Court had ruled in cases where victims were given compensation and the accident was totally unintentional, the criminal liability should be minimum. PTI