Bhopal: A day after a local court here gave its long-due verdict in the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy case, the US on Tuesday ruled out reopening any `new inquiries` against Union Carbide, the parent company of Union Carbide India Ltd which operated the plant, from where the deadly gas leaked, at the time of the accident.
The US’ reaction to the verdict came even as the Indian government today defended itself, saying it had made the first request for Union Carbide’s then chairman Warren Anderson’s extradition in 2003, adding it has since then made innumerable such requests, all of which are pending with Washington.
“The US government has ignored several extradition requests for Anderson. The US has been ignoring the requests on the ground that since Anderson is not personally culpable for the tragedy, he cannot be extradited,” MEA sources said today.
Anderson has been on the run since 1980s. He was declared a proclaimed offender after jumping bail in India.
The US meanwhile expressed hope today that the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict would not affect the passage of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill in
The Obama administration further hoped that yesterday`s verdict by a Bhopal court will bring "closure" to the families of the gas leak victims and that this case will not "inhibit" US` expanding ties with India.
The US administration has refused to discuss the issue of extradition of Anderson, who was chairman of Union Carbide at the time of incident. Carbide is a US multi-national firm.
The Nuclear Bill, which is facing opposition in India, is currently before Parliament. The controversial Bill has been referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament.
The American reactions by senior officials came amid outrage by civil rights activists over the US parent company escaping criminal liability and Anderson being allowed to go scot free in connection with the 1984 gas disaster in which over 15,000 people died.
The officials were reacting to the court convicting seven Indian employees including ex-Union Carbide India chairman Keshub Mahindra and sentencing them to two years in prison each, nearly 26 years after the tragedy.
"With respect to Bhopal, obviously that was one of the greatest industrial tragedies and industrial accidents in human history.
“And let me just say that we hope that this verdict today helps to bring some closure to the victims and their families," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake told a news conference here.
Blake hoped the verdict will not lead to opening of new inquiries into the role of Union Carbide in the disaster.
On whether there was a request by India for Anderson`s extradition, Blake said "As a matter of policy, we never discuss extradition, so I cannot comment on that."
To a similar question at another news briefing, the State Department spokesman, P J Crowley said: "This tragedy happened 26 years ago, and it was a terrible tragedy, one of the worst industrial accidents in human history, and we certainly hope that the verdict brings some closure to the families of the victims of this tragedy."
Crowley hoped that this particular case "does not inhibit - or the continuing expansion of economic, cultural, and political ties between the two countries."
"We fully expect that this will not be the case. The Indian Parliament will have to make judgement on the Nuclear Liabilities Bill, but this criminal case should have no relation to the liability legislation currently before the Parliament," Crowley said.
Blake remained declined to comment on whether the Obama administration will consider urging Dow Chemical to compensate the Bhopal gas tragedy victims and their families, as the administration was pushing British Petroleum to do in the wake of the massive Gulf oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.
(With PTI inputs)