With hindsight, say no to Bhopal case: Nariman

Fali S Nariman said with hindsight, he would not have accepted the Bhopal gas leak case.

New Delhi: Fali S Nariman, lead lawyer of Union Carbide in the Bhopal gas leak case, has said with hindsight, he "certainly would not have accepted the civil liability case".

"If I had to live my life all over again, as a lawyer, and the brief came to me and I had foreknowledge of everything that later came in, I would not have accepted the case," Nariman told news channel during an interview.

Nariman, who represented Union Carbide in 1985, said he thought that the Bhopal case was one more case which would add a feather to his cap. "I mean one is always ambitious at that age. But, I found later, but then it`s too late... One can`t walk out of the case one has already taken up... That this involved, it was not a case; it was a tragedy. And in a tragedy, who is right, who is wrong etc all becomes marred in great deal of justifiable emotion."

Describing himself as a "fallen angel", Nariman said he found merit in the criticism by the human rights tribunal that by accepting the brief, he had allowed Union Carbide to cash in on his human rights credentials and that wasn`t just an unwarranted advantage for Union Carbide but, people argued, that it also meant that great harm was done to the protection and promotion of human rights.

"I think I was described along with others as a fallen angel. I am no angel, of course, but nor am I a devil. But fallen angel would perhaps sum up what others thought of this whole episode."

Asked whether he thought that the court should have made a greater inquiry and taken greater scrutiny of the figures before assuming these figures were factually correct, he said he thought so. "You see, I think, the court had this problem before it. This was only an interim order.”

Nariman said he believed the Attorney General was wrong in his opinion that the Bhopal case can be reopened and the accused can be charged under higher charges.

Regarding the government`s attempts to extradite then Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson, Nariman said: "It looks grim to me".

Nariman was pessimistic of the government moves after the June 7 trial court judgment in the Bhopal case recently. "The only thing which the government has done, in my opinion, correctly but it should have done 14 or 15 years before is to increase the compensation if they genuinely believe that the victims have not got their amount," he said.

On the night of December 2-3, 1984 nearly 40 tonnes of methyl isocynate gas leaked out of storage tanks of the Union Carbide`s Bhopal plant, killing an estimated 20,000 people over the years. Anderson was the Union Carbide boss then.

A ministerial panel on the disaster Thursday recommended enhanced compensation for the victims and also announced it was looking for ways to seek the extradition of Anderson.


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