Bhopal gas tragedy: Moily exonerates govt, blames judiciary
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Last Updated: Saturday, June 12, 2010, 23:13
New Delhi/Bangalore: Amid continuing blame-game over the Bhopal gas tragedy, the then Chief Justice of India A M Ahmadi was on Saturday at the centre of the controversy with Law Minister Veerappa Moily saying the Supreme Court verdict had reduced the incident to a "car accident".

Ahmadi, who is blamed for diluting the charges in the case, reacted by saying that the government could not escape the responsibility when such an incident happens.

The spat between Moily and Ahmadi came even as the then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh continued to be targeted by Congress leaders over Warren Anderson's escape.

Senior Congress leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said Arjun Singh had earlier admitted that the decision to allow Anderson to leave the country was taken at state level and said he should speak out so that the "names of others are not unnecessarily dragged into the issue."

Singh remained incommunicado and did not even turn up at a function organised by a media group to honour him with 'Lifetime Achievement Award' for his "contribution to Urdu language".

Moily regretted in Bangalore that judiciary had diluted the the charges in the gas leakage case.

"CBI had filed charges under (IPC) Section 304 (II) under which the maximum punishment is 10 years. But the highest court (headed by Ahmadi), in a review petition, converted it to 304 (A) which is actually meant for a car accident, truck accident," the Law Minister told reporters in Bangalore.

Section 304 (II) of the IPC is culpable homicide not amounting to murder while 304(A) is causing death due to negligence.

"The offence of this dimension, I am very sorry, it has been reduced," Moily said.

Reacting to efforts to put the onus of responsibility on him, Ahmadi said, "the government is always responsible. When something of this nature happens to the people of the country, does the government say it has no responsibility? I am unable to understand that".

When his attention was drawn to experts and former CBI officials dubbing the 1996 verdict diluting the charges as absolutely wrong, the former CJI said "I cannot say anything about it".

"The hue and cry is happening because people want to raise the issue," Ahmadi said.

When asked about the remedies available to the CBI or the Government, the former Chief Justice said, "I don't see one".

On questions about his heading the Bhopal Memorial Trust Hospital of the Union Carbide, he said he would write to Chief Justice S H Kapadia, offering to step down.

He said he had made similar offer to previous Chief Jutice K G Balakrishnan.

Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said all those convicted should be brought to book.

On Anderson, she said he should be extradited as soon as possible and hoped the government would take all necessary steps.

Chaturvedi, a Congress Working Committee (CWC) member who hails from Madhya Pradesh, insisted that Rajiv Gandhi had no role in Anderson's escape and pressed Arjun Singh to come clean on the issue.

"Arjun Singh should break his silence and come forward to tell whether he stands by the three statements he had made after Anderson left the country, which clearly bring out the fact that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had no role into it," he told PTI.

Giving details of these statements, Chaturvedi said, "On December 8, 1984, Arjun Singh had said that Anderson was allowed to leave the country because the police felt his presence was not required.

"On December 9, Singh said that there was no pressure on him from anybody (to allow Anderson to fly out of the country), while on December 14, he said he briefed the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the circumstances that led to Anderson's arrest and then leaving the country."

These three statements, Chaturvedi said, "clearly show that Rajiv Gandhi had no role in this decision, which was taken at the level of local administration and state government."

He said Arjun Singh should "endorse" these three statements he made earlier, otherwise if he "has any new facts, he should say".

Earlier yesterday, two other Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and R K Dhawan said Arjun Singh should answer how Anderson left the country.

Moily also attacked Rajiv Gandhi's aide P C Alexander for suggesting that the then prime minister may have had a role in Anderson's release, saying it was a "motivated statement" as he had gone to "anti-Congress camp because he was not considered for Presidentship".


First Published: Saturday, June 12, 2010, 23:13

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