More than three decades after the Bhopal gas disaster, a former plant employee was named for the first time in judicial proceedings on Monday as having deliberately diverted water into a tank containing the lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC).
Thousands lost their lives and many more affected by the deadly gas leak in the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, with Union Carbide officials insinuating that the mishap could have occurred only by sabotage because there was no defect in the plant or the technology.
In June 2010, a Bhopal court had handed a two-year jail term to eight officials of Union Carbide India Limited, leading to an outcry across the country against what was believed to be a paltry sentence disproportionate to the alleged crime.
While the CBI, which investigated the case, had filed an appeal seeking enhancement of sentence, the accused had challenged their conviction arguing that they were not responsible for the mishap.
Appearing for two accused S P Chaudhary and J Mukund, their advocate Anirban Roy told the district court on Monday that disgruntled plant operator M L Verma was behind the sabotage because he was unhappy with his seniors. Roy argued that the theory about defects in the plant causing the mishap was imaginary. He said truth had always been suppressed and it’s for the CBI to bring it out.
The counsel argued that there were discrepancies in the statements given by persons who were operating the plant at that time but the central agency chose not to investigate the case properly because it always wanted to prove that it was a mishap, and not sabotage. He alleged that Verma was unhappy with Chaudhary and Mukund.
Activists working for the survivors confirmed that Verma was named for the first time in judicial proceedings. Verma was a prosecution witness. “Why was the CBI and the company (Union Carbide) silent all these years?’’ asked Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action.
Abdul Jabbar of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan said the accused were resorting to delaying tactics by coming up with the sabotage angle and naming the former employee.