8 June ; A quarter century after the world’s worst industrial disaster that killed over 15,000 people, a local court on Monday convicted former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others in the Bhopal Gas tragedy case and awarded them a maximum of two years imprisonment.
However, 89-year-old Warren Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of USA, who lives in the United States, appeared to have gone scot free for the present as he is still an absconder and did not subject himself to trial.
There was no word about him in the judgement delivered by Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari 23 years after trial commenced.
All the convicts applied for bail immediately after the sentencing and were granted relief in the case, the judgement of which comes against the backdrop of a debate on the Civil Nuclear Liability bill which would provide for compensation to victims in case of a nuclear disaster.
Tiwari pronounced the verdict in a packed court room convicting 85-year-old Mahindra, the non-executive former Chairman of UCIL, and seven others in the case relating to leakage of deadly methyl isocyanate gas in the night intervening 2nd and 3rd December, 1984.
They were held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence), 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.
Others found guilty were Vijay Gokhle, the then Managing Director of UCIL, Kishore Kamdar, the then Vice President, J N Mukund, the then Works Manager, S P Choudhary, the then Production Manager, K V Shetty, the then Plant Superintendent and S I Quereshi, the then Production Assistant.
Mahindra, who had declined a Padma Bhushan award in 2002 on grounds that he was facing trial in the case, and six others were present to hear the judgement while Quereshi was represented by his counsel.
The sentencing for Quereshi is yet to be announced.
They were sentenced to two years imprisonment and awarded a fine of Rs. one lakh each under section 304(a), imprisonment of 3 months and a fine of Rs.250 under Sec 336, 6 months and Rs.500 under Sec 337 and 2 years and Rs.1,000 under Sec 338.
All the sentences will run concurrently.
Civil rights activists fighting for the families of victims of the disaster called the judgement “too little, too late” and accused the prosecution and CBI of failing the victims by diluting the charges.