Over three decades after the Bhopal gas tragedy, a court has ordered registration of a case against the then district collector Moti Singh and retired superintendent of police Swaraj Puri for allegedly helping Warren Anderson, Chairman of Union Carbide Limited, escape from India.
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Anderson, a resident of Connecticut, USA, never appeared in the Bhopal court for trial despite being the prime accused in the case related to the world’s worst industrial disaster, and was declared an absconder. He died in the US in 2013.
Moti Singh, a retired IAS officer, and Swaraj Puri, a ex-IPS official, should be booked under section 212 (harbouring offender), 217 (public servant disobeying direction of law with intent to save person from punishment) and 221 (intentional omission to apprehend on the part of public servant bound to apprehend) of IPC, Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate Bhubhaskar Yadav said yesterday. The court also summoned Singh and Puri for the next hearing on December 8.
The order was passed on a petition filed by activist Abdul Jabbar demanding criminal action against the two former officers for allegedly helping Anderson escape from the country.
“Prima facie it is evident that thousands of people were dying in Bhopal due to leakage of poisonous gases and the heads of the district, the collector and the SP, were using all their expertise and system to help a criminal escape rather than helping the victims,” the judge said.
“With full planning for saving him, they not only gave time to Anderson but helped and provided him with resources to escape the country. It is for these reasons that he could not be arrested,” the CJM said.
Four days after toxic gas leak from the now defunct Union Carbide factory in Bhopal (which made pesticides) on December 3, 1984, killing more than 10,000 persons and causing injuries to thousands of others, Anderson landed in Madhya Pradesh’s capital from the US.
After being arrested for a few hours, he managed to secure bail from the police. It was alleged that he had access to a landline phone where he was detained, and used his contacts.