The district collector and superintendent of police of Bhopal in 1984 should be booked for letting Union Carbide Corporation chief Warren Anderson leave India, a court here ordered on Saturday, more than three decades after a plant run by the firm caused the deadliest industrial accident in the world.
IAS officer Moti Singh and IPS officer Swaraj Puri, both retired, will 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, according to the ruling.
“It’s prima facie evident that thousands of people were dying due to leakage of poisonous gas, but the district’s head, the then collector and superintendent of police were using their expertise and system not to save the people, but instead help a criminal escape”, chief judicial magistrate Bhubhaskar Yadav said.
On December 3, 1984, the Union Carbide plant released 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas, exposing more than 500,000 people to toxic fumes that eventually led to the deaths of more than 3,500 and left tens of thousands with disabilities.
Saturday’s order came on a 2010 petition filed by Abdul Jabbar (a social activist working for victims of gas tragedy) and Shanawaz Khan. Their contention was based on public interviews, media reportage and a book penned by Singh, who was then the district collector and had accompanied Anderson to the airport.
The UCC boss took a flight to Delhi before leaving the country.
Puri, who was also the state police chief between 2005 and 2006, refused to comment on the court’s order. “I cannot comment, I don’t know what the court order is because I am out of Bhopal for my wife’s treatment,” he said.
Despite multiple attempts made by HT, Moti Singh was not available for comment.