Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday admitted the country’s political class had let down the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy and denied the then Congress government had let off former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson under pressure from the US.
Replying to a discussion on the 1984 tragedy in the Rajya Sabha, Chidambaram said, “I see a deep sense of guilt that in all these 26 years, neither the executive nor Parliament appeared to have exercised the vigil and supervision that the situation warranted.” He said interventions made by the judiciary had complicated matters. “The executive and
Parliament thought that they could hide behind judicial pronouncements and leave it to the judiciary to handle the matter.”
Chidambaram said the executive and Parliament had abdicated all their functions — the question of criminal liability, compensation and providing health care — in favour of the judiciary.
He said the proceedings for the extradition of Anderson, which began in 1984, were still incomplete. “Everyone who has been a Prime Minister and headed a government is in one way or the other responsible and accountable.”
A day after veteran Congress leader Arjun Singh revealed that home ministry officials in New Delhi made persistent calls to the then MP chief secretary to grant bail to Anderson, Chidambaram told the House there were no records of any such conversations. He also admitted there were no immigration records for that period in the foreign ministry.
He said, “However much it may be distasteful to believe, there are no records in the MEA of who met whom, who had a conversation with whom, what meeting was held…”
Chidambaram said, “Safe passage was indeed given, according to MK Rasgotra (then foreign secretary). Anderson was allowed to leave, according to Arjun Singh... I am in no position to either confirm or dispute these two facts. Each member of the House may draw his own conclusions.”