Bhopal, Aug. 29: A Bhopal court has issued bailable warrants against two top former district officials, nearly 33 years after they were alleged to have helped Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson flee within days of the 1984 gas tragedy that killed and maimed thousands.
Chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Bhubhaskar Yadav issued the warrants yesterday against a bail bond of Rs 5,000 after Moti Singh, who was the district collector then, and Swaraj Puri, the superintendent of police at that time, failed to appear for the second consecutive hearing.
Abdul Jabbar, a survivor-activist, said it was a telling commentary on the judicial system that a criminal case against alleged culprits had been filed after so long. "However, I am happy that the wheels of justice have finally caught up with them," he said.
Singh and Puri could be jailed for seven years if the charges against them are proved.
Last year, too, CJM Yadav had summoned both after they failed to appear at a hearing. "Prima facie, it is evident that thousands of people were dying in Bhopal due to leakage of poisonous gases, 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 magistrate had remarked then.
Puri, who went on to become the state's police chief, is now a member of the state-run Madhya Pradesh Private University Regulatory Commission. He lives in Bhopal, as does Singh. Both declined to comment on the order.
Deadly methyl isocyanate gas had leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, killing over 3,000 people in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, considered the world's worst industrial disaster.