Twenty-six years after the world’s worst industrial disaster that had left over 15,000 people dead, a local court today convicted all the eight accused including former Union Carbide Chairman Keshub Mahindra in the Bhopal Gas tragedy case.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari pronounced the verdict in a packed court room convicting 85-year-old Mahindra, and seven others in the case relating to leakage of deadly methyl isocyanate gas in the intervening of Dec 2 and 3 1984.
They were held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence), 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.
However, there was no no word on Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of the US, who was declared an absconder after he did not not subject himself to trial in the case that began 23 years ago.
Others found guilty are 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 Quershi, the then Production Assistant.
The sentencing in the case is expected later. Arguments on the quantum of sentence were put forward by the defence and prosecution counsel.
Except Quershi, all the seven others, including Mahindra, were present in the court. A ninth accused R B Roy Choudhary, the then former Assistant Works Manager of UCIL, Mumbai, had died during the course of the trial.
A total of 178 prosecution witnesses were examined in the trial and 3008 documents were produced while eight defence witnesses deposed in the court.
Anderson, who did not face trial, is based in the US. The companies–Union Carbide Corporation, USA and Union Carbide Eastern, Hong Kong –were also not represented in the trial.
FIR in the tragedy was filed on December 3, 1984 and the case was transferred to CBI on December 6, 1984. The CBI filed the chargesheet after investigation on December 1, 1987. Subsequently, a local court had framed charges against the accused.
CBI counsel C Sahay had argued that defective design of UCIL and its poor maintenance resulted into the tragedy that had left 2259 dead immediately after the mishap. The lingering effects of the highly poisonous methyl isocyanate killed over 15,000 people.
Sahay contended that Union Carbide Corporation, USA, in its survey of the factory in 1982 had found serious safety and maintenance lapses on nearly 10 counts. The prosecution argued that even after UCC experts’ team visit to the factory, adequate safety measures and maintenance works were not undertaken in UCIL.
A Central team, which visited the UCIL plant post-tragedy in 1984, also found lapses in safety norms and maintenance, the counsel had said.
Refuting the charge that lapses in maintenance and safety norms had led to the tragedy, defence counsel D Prasad and Amit Desai had argued that all steps were followed to keep the UCIL’s Bhopal factory in a proper shape.
The defence had also refuted the charge that a team of Union Carbide Corporation, USA, which visited the plant following the death of a worker here in 1982, had found any fault in the unit.
The defence had contended that the UCIL was so much concerned on the safety front that after the death of Mohammed Ashraf Khan, it had reported the matter to the UCC, USA, which had carried out a safety audit.