A day after the court of district and sessions judge dismissed CBI's revision petition seeking an enhancement of charges against all the accused in the Union Carbide gas disaster criminal case, dismayed NGOs working among survivors of the tragedy have reacted strongly against "thorough incompetence and unwillingness demonstrated by the CBI in ensuring an stringent action against the accused in the case".
It has only been the NGOs assisting the CBI in prosecution that have been pushing the investigating agency into action, they said.
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan (BGPMUS) convener Abdul Jabbar said that ever since the CBI took over the case (December 7, 1984), it has been working towards saving the Union Carbide and its officials from stringent penal action rather than the opposite.
"The CBI has worked towards saving them rather than punishing the accused," he said.
Recalling the sequence of events, he said whether it be the final settlement of 1989 and withdrawal of all liabilities on Union Carbide including the criminal case or execution of arrest warrant against the then Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson issued on March 27, 1992 to Supreme Court order of September 13, 1996, reducing charges against all the Indian accused in the case, CBI never did anything to safeguard the interests of gas victims.
It's only the NGOs who went in appeal against the final settlement and at least the criminal case against the accused was reinstated in 1992, and it was again the NGOs who went in appeal against the 1996-Supreme Court order.
The CBI remained a mute witness or rather connived with the government to make things easier for the Union Carbide.
In fact, in 2002, CBI mooted the idea that Anderson should also be tried under section 304 (a) like Indian officials of Union Carbide and it was again protest from the NGOs that forced the CBI to change its mind, Jabbar said.
"Supreme Court dismissed their curative petition on similar grounds as the sessions court. Their question was why not an application under section 216/323 of the CrPC was moved during the trial of the case or why the CBI did not go in appeal against Supreme Court order of 1996. We had appealed against the 1996 order and had also moved an application under section 216 in the CJM court seeking enhancement of charges, but in the absence of the support from the CBI, our petition was dismissed," he added.
Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group of Information and Action also agreed.
He said, "I can only say that the CBI has only shown incompetence and unwillingness to act against the corporations and individuals accused in the case. It's only the groups assiting them in prosecution that have been pushing them into action. A clear illustration of this is the fact that it took CBI 11-odd years to apply for extradition of Warren Anderson and they have not taken a single step till date for the extradition of the authorised represenative of Union Carbide Corporation."