Half Hearted Reply to RTI Application by MEA on Bhopal Disaster Even After CIC Order

M Reyaz & Afroz Alam Sahil

New Delhi: The truth of who all conspired to unending delay in extradition of Warren Anderson, the main accused in the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984, would never be known it seems.

Warren Anderson was the chief of the Union Carbide at the time.

BeyondHeadlines had requested the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to provide copies of all correspondence exchanged between the ministry and the CBI on the controversial case relating to the Bhopal gas tragedy under the Right to information Act (RTI).

File photo of a protest rally organised by victims of gas tragedy

MEA has sent copies of letters it wrote to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). But copies of responses by CBI have not been made available. MEA writes that it had “approached CBI but they intimated… (that) CBI has been exempted under section 2 (u) of the RTI Act, 2005.”

But MEA certainly needs to explain that why they do not have copies of responses in their records.

Earlier MEA had refused the information giving reasons under 7(9) of the RTI Act, 2005 that information was not “readily available with the Ministry” and “Compiling of the information would disproportionately divert the resources of the Public Authority.”

The Chief Public Information officer (CPIO) of the MEA further argued that “furnishing any information in this regard could impede the process of extradition.”

However, The Chief Information Commission (CIC) had observed that “matter sub judice is not ground enough for denying information about the matter.”

It had further declared, “The information sought relates to one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes resulting in death, disability and maiming of thousands of people all over Bhopal. The information therefore, is of significance to the general public, especially the families of the victims who have been awaiting justice since over last two decades.”

On December 2-3, 1984, at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal a leak of methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals from the plant resulted in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of people. Warren Anderson was the chairman of the company.

UCIL was later taken over by the Dow Chemicals.

While the government death toll stands at about 3,787, estimates by rights’ groups put it to about 8000 and more. A government affidavit in 2006 stated that so far, a total of 558,125 people suffered injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries.

Although, Anderson was arrested on December 7, 1984, but within days he was granted bail after signing a bond and assurance of appearing before the police and the court during investigation. He, however, has since been ‘missing’.

Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit had hence directed the MEA to “provide all the Information as are available with them in their official records relating to the matter, and as sought by the Complainant, by or within the 10th of June 2011.”

Earlier MEA had copies of the court proceedings and affidavits submitted by the CBI, and requested for more time for compilation of letters.

However, what MEA has now sent is only copies of letters it wrote to the CBI.

BeyondHeadlines had also sought records of all correspondence between the MEA and all other government departments concerned, including the Madhya Pradesh government. MEA is silent on that.


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