CBI seeks extradition of Warren Anderson

In its application filed before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vinod Yadav, the CBI demanded that extradition proceedings against Anderson should begin.  After considering the urgent application, Magistrate Yadav kept the application for further hearing on Wednesday.

Warren Anderson is the main accused in the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy when a toxic gas leak from the Union Carbide Corporation's now defunct pesticide plant in the Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal killed and maimed thousands of people on the intervening night of Dec 2-3.

"The CBI has moved an application in a Delhi Court seeking extradition of the then Union Carbide Corporation Chairman Warren Anderson in the Bhopal Gas tragedy case. The application follows the decision to seek a fresh trial under section 304 (2) of the Indian Penal Code," the CBI spokesperson said here. 

The CBI's plea to the Delhi court for issuing Letter Rogatory for Anderson's extradition from the US has come in the wake of Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati's submission to the apex court last month that if needed, the government may initiate fresh steps to seek his extradition.

India had earlier approached the US for Anderson's extradition in 2003, but the US had rejected the plea in 2004 saying that the provisions of the bilateral extradition treaty between them do not allow his extradition.

The issue of Anderson's extradition had cropped up again after a Bhopal court on June 7 last year convicted Union Carbide India Limited Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six other UCIL employees posted at the multinational's plant at Bhopal and awarded them two year's jail term each.

The meagre punishment for an offence, which had killed over 15,000 people and maimed tens of thousands others, evoked a widespread outrage, prompting Indian government to form a ministerial panel to go into the issue.

As per the ministerial panel's recommendations, the government decided to seek fresh trial of all the seven surviving accused of the Bhopal gas tragedy on stringent charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which entails a jail term up to 10 years as punishment.

Accordingly, the government in an extraordinary step, moved the apex court with a curative petition to seek review of its September 13, 1996 judgement, which had ordered the trial of the accused on milder charges of causing death due to rash and negligent act, which entails a maximum two year jail term.

The apex court had given its ruling, setting aside the the lower court's order to put Mahindra and others on trial on the stringent charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The apex court had set aside the trial court order, which had been endorsed even by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Later the government had on December 3 last year also moved the apex court seeking enhancement of compensation from Rs 750 crore to Rs 7,700 crore for the victims of the leakage of deadly deadly methyl iso-cyanate gas from the gas chambers of the Union Carbide plant.

For seeking Anderson's extradition, the CBI is also depending upon the prosecution's evidence, proven before the trail court earlier, that the UCC management knew about the Bhopal plant's structural defect, but ignored it in order to cut cost on the maintenance of iuts tanks storing highly toxic material.

During the protracted trial, the witness had said the maintenance staff had brought to the management's notice about leaking pipes needing urgent replacement. But they were told to minimise repair costs by welding the damaged pipes rather than replacing them.

The management including Anderson has been held responsible for their failure to replace the damaged pipes which allowed water to enter the chemical storage chambers leading to leakage of deadly methyl iso-cyanate gas.

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