A Bhopal court on Friday ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to arrest former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson and produce him without delay, prompting survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy to celebrate on the streets.
On the intervening night of Decmber 2 and 3, 1984, Union Carbide Ltd had spewed methyl isocyanate, a lethal toxic gas, killing thousands of people and maiming thousands of others. Anderson, besides Union Carbide, is a prime accused in the case and was proclaimed an absconder in 1992 after he refused to appear in the court despite several summons.
"The order is a sigh of relief for many victims who are suffering even after 24 years of the chemical disaster," said Sadhna Pathak, a lawyer who claimed to be supporting various non-governmental organisations in the case.
Pathak added: "The court has asked the CBI to explain what steps it has taken to enforce the warrant issued, and extradition ordered, in 2002. A copy of the order was also sent to the Ministry of External Affairs."
Union Carbide Corporation and Anderson are charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, grievous assault and other serious crimes in relation to the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.
A statement issued by Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action, an NGO, said quoting Rashida Bee, one of the survivors: "The CBI was hoping to indefinitely delay this case. This is a very welcome and much anticipated move that Chief Judicial Magistrate Prakash Hohan Tiwari has independently ordered renewed action on this front." Bee is also a member of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh.
Neither the CBI spokesperson nor CBI counsel was available for comment.
"Punishing the guilty and having them face the law is extremely important for survivors to attain closure to the horrors of the disaster. More importantly, this will send a strong signal that corporations and corporate bosses cannot play with our lives," the statement said.