A day after the eight accused responsible for India’s worst industrial disaster at Bhopal got away lightly sparking a nationwide outrage, the government on Tuesday said it will make a new law within six months to deal with man-made disasters.
<b1>Virtually conceding that the existing laws were unable to hold companies financially liable for such industrial disasters, Law Minister M Veerappa Moily assured a series of measures to avoid a repeat of Bhopal like tragedy.
“I will be working on a stand alone law to deal with man-made disasters in keeping with the strong feeling in the country about what happened in the Bhopal case,” Moily told HT.
The proposed new law is likely to be a stand alone legislation to define a stiff punishment for those responisble for industrial disasters and a quick delivery of compensation to the affected people.
Asked whether lack of a clear law on monetary compensation helped the United States based Union Carbide company, which was later acquired by Dow Chemicals, escape from paying heavy financial damages, the minister said the government would look into it.
“India has so far not codified the Law of Torts. I think within the next six months it should be ready, but it should not be confused with the civilian nuclear liability bill,” Moily said.
A top ministry official said the development of Law of Torts, derived from the British legal system, like majority of Indian laws, would help the people in knowing about the remedies available to them in case they were directly affected by actions of a wrongdoer.
“We hope to get a bill pased in parliament to put the Law of Torts in Indian statute books so that the citizens can be encouraged to claim damages for acts committed by companies and individuals like that of Bhopal,” said TK Viswanathan, advisor to the law minister.
Moily also rejected the allegations that the PV Narasimha Rao government had not pursued the extradition of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson and said the Bhopal gas tragedy case against him was still open.
“Legally and technically, we can’t say that the case against Anderson is over. It is still on and suppose he can be obtained, then he can still be tried,” Moily said.
He dismissed the statement of former CBI joint director, BR Lall, who was handling the probe in 1994-95, that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had written to the investigating agency asking it not to pursue Anderson's extradition.
“After retirement, people try to become martyrs by making such statements,” he remarked.
Another Union minister Salman Khurshid, who was minister of state in the MEA during that period, also rejected Lall's claim, saying the CBI was not under the MEA.