Thirty-two years after the Bhopal gas tragedy, the mystery around who had allowed the escape of US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) chairman Warren Anderson -- within hours of his arrest in Bhopal on December 7, 1984 -- may be cracked soon, activists said on Sunday.
The district court ordered on Saturday that then Bhopal collector Moti Singh and superintendent of police Swaraj Puri in 1984 should be booked for letting Anderson leave India. The court summoned Singh and Puri on December 8 to give their statements on letting go of Anderson, whom they had escorted to the Bhopal airport.
“I am now hopeful that they (Singh and Puri) will reveal who had called them to let go Anderson like that,” gas activist Abdul Jabbar told HT.
The court order came on a 2010 petition filed by Jabbar and Shanawaz Khan.
“It remains a mystery who actually instructed the senior government functionaries directing them to let Anderson go… The decision effectively ensured that Anderson never had to face an Indian court for as long as he lived,” Jabbar said.
Anderson died on September 29, 2015 at a nursing home in Florida at the age of 92.
Over 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas leaked at the UCC’s plant in Bhopal, killing over 5000 people on the night of December 2-3, 1984 and exposing more than 500,000 people to toxic fumes.
ND Jayaprakash, co-convener of Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti, said police had arrested Anderson when he landed in Bhopal four days after the disaster, and taken him to the Union Carbide guesthouse where he had been kept under house arrest.
“But on the same day, Anderson was released on a personal bond of `25,000, put on a state government plane, and flown out of Bhopal,” Jayaprakash said.
“What we don’t know is that on whose instructions or order, he was released and let go. The superintendent of police and collector escorted him to the airport. After his arrest, he ought to have been produced before the court.”
He said the Bhopal district court had issued a non-bailable warrant against Anderson in March 1992 and also declared him an absconder, but he never returned to face the trial.
On Saturday, the court ruled that Moti Singh and Swaraj Puri, both retired, would be booked under sections that lay down punishment for harbouring an offender and using their powers as public servant to save an offender from punishment.