Leaders of all the organisations of survivors of the Union Carbide Disaster in Bhopal today condemned the governments of both India and USA for the non appearance of any representative of Dow Chemical Company in the ongoing criminal case on the disaster. At the hearing in the District Court, counsel for Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA), a local NGO assisting the Prosecution sought ex - parte trial proceedings against the American company before the judicial magistrate hearing the matter.
"The Indian Criminal Procedure Code expressly provides for ex-parte proceedings against a defendant in a criminal trial that ignores notices of the court." said Avi Singh a lawyer in Delhi High Court volunteering his services for the Bhopal justice campaign. . Singh pointed out that Dow Chemical has publicly admitted their knowledge of the four consecutive notices issued by the Bhopal Court and it is evident on the corporate website. He expressed hope that the Judicial Magistrate who heard the NGO's application would direct harsher measures against Dow Chemical at the next hearing scheduled for August 6, 2016.
"In the last two years Dow Chemical has thrice ignored the court's notice and all that the Indian government has done is send one meek request after another and not utter a word on the violation of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in not serving the notice on Dow Chemical" said Rachna Dhingra of BGIA. She alleged that the CBI is deliberately shielding the accused.
Bhopal survivors' organisations had collected over one hundred thousand signatures on a petition demanding that the US DoJ serve Bhopal Court's notice on Dow Chemical as per the terms of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between India and USA in 1991. As per the terms of the petition on Whitehouse.gov website the US government is obligated to respond to charges of violation of MLAT by the US DoJ.
Satinath Sarangi of BGIA charged the CBI with deliberate foot dragging, an allegation noted by the Magistrate in his order sheet. " CBI's dilatory moves are apparent in what they have presented in court today”, he said.
As per CBI's own submission in court, the notice to Dow Chemical was sent in February this year and the reminder was sent in June only after the letter of five Bhopal survivors' organisations to the Prime Minister on this matter on June 14, Sarangi revealed.
The five survivors’ organisations had sought the Prime Minister's directions to the CBI, an agency directly under him, to seek harsher measures against Dow Chemical for its utter contempt of the law of India where it carries out business through at least five subsidiaries and joint ventures.
Further, BGIA sought start of trial proceeding in the underlying criminal cases, in suspended animation for a quarter of a century, asserting that if UCC/Dow chose not to participate, the Court may proceed ex parte on the basis of the evidence already adduced in the case against the Indian accused.