This Article is From Jun 08, 2010

Was told to go soft on Warren Anderson: Former CBI official

New Delhi:
The verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case has reopened both wounds and questions. Particularly, the one question that has haunted the victims and much of India - what about Warren Anderson, the man who headed the US-based Union Carbide Corporation when the disaster occurred? The man who was arrested after the gas leak but then inexplicably released on bail five days later and was allowed to leave India after signing a bond of Rs 25,000, never to return.

Many years after the tragedy, in 2003, the Indian government officially made a request for the extradition of Anderson, only to have it turned down by the US. Activists have alleged that the government just did not try hard enough to bring Warren Anderson back. Now, officials who were in charge of investigations, too say the Indian government was never serious about trying Anderson.

NDTV spoke to former CBI official BR Lall, who was in charge of investigations of the Bhopal gas tragedy from April 1994 TO July 1995. He said he was categorically told not to press for Anderson's extradition. "Communication received from  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking us not to pursue extradition...he (Anderson) was the main culprit as far as we were concerned, " Lall said.

He said he opposed the written communication he received from the Foreign Ministry to this effect, though he has not kept a copy of the letter. "I returned the letter saying that it will not be possible for the CBI...After a little while I was transferred...I don't know when the final decision was taken to drop proceedings," Lall added.

Anderson and 11 other accused were initially charged by the CBI for culpable homicide which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years. The case against Anderson was later separated. Also, the charges were brought down to criminal negligence which carries a maximum punishment of two years.    

Asked if the CBI had collected enough evidence against Anderson, Lall said, "As far as the CBI is concerned, it must be remembered that Anderson was not allowed to be brought there...This is human tragedy of utmost grief...but the CBI remained helpless. The CBI was capable, but the CBI cannot rise above a government order. In other countries, agencies like the CBI are free from government control and are able to function as per the law." 

Activists and victims say Anderson and the top management of the company were aware that storing methyl isocynate was dangerous. Anderson is also said to have introduced cost-cutting measures which compromised safety at the plant.