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Blind justice being served cold - 25 years after the crime

It’s been twenty five years since more than 3,000 people died on the night that forty tons of methyl isocynate gas leaked at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal.  Since then an estimated 15,000 people have died of gas related illnesses, and the town is seeing the third generation of its children being born with birth defects.

And finally eight people – including senior officials from the Union Carbide factory - have been convicted of “death by negligence”.  The crime carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.  It remains to be seen though if these eight people will serve even that time.

This is what I don’t understand: how can someone like Mohammed Kasab, who was the lone gunmen of the Mumbai attacks be tried and convicted almost instantly in India’s ponderous justice system and get an inevitable death sentence; yet the company bosses who made the decisions that lead to thousands of tonnes of a very toxic gas to be leaked into an urban centre have been living lives of relative luxury for decades while their victims still suffer.

Thousands more died in Bhopal than in Mumbai.

Is what happened in Bhopal not a greater crime if only on the scale of destruction than what happened in Mumbai?

And you could say it was premeditated murder because the Union Carbide factory officials knew the risks they were taking simply to save a few bucks here and there.  And furthermore, their crimes live on in the generations of babies being born in pain who have to be taken care of by families themselves struggling to make ends meet.

But of course the likes of Warren Anderson (the chairman of Union Carbide at the time of the accident) and Keshub Mahindra (his Indian counterpart) have the resources to hire the lawyers who can drag out the case all the way to the Supreme Court, watering down the charges along the way.  Mohammed Kasab on the other hand, was a nobody, his ignorance fed by a hollow ideology to be suicide fodder.

It gives a whole new meaning on the old cliché doesn’t it – the one about justice being blind.

1 Comment on “Blind justice being served cold - 25 years after the crime”

  1. #1 David Berridge
    on Jun 7th, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Yes, Dheera, your question is a logical as it is complex. What is a difference in these two crimes relates to intent relative to their perpetrators and intended consequences. The terrorist attack at Mumbai was propagated to generate the outcome of an international war, in which the planners hoped to secure a result of conflict escalating perhaps to the event of a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. The speed and expedition of the Indian courts in this case were designed to defuse the terrorists’ goals and bring about a heightened effort at bilateral co-operation between India and Pakistan at international security against the possibilty of another such incident becoming successful. Many thousands more may have been killed on a far greater multiple scale had such a conflict been realized as to the terrorists’ designs. In contrast, the crimmal tragedy at Bophal was contained to a relatively geographical area despite the many thousands of lives taken immediately and continuosly since then, along with the chronically prolonged suffering of those today and sadly into the future. Union Carbide as a transnational entity used international legal regulations and instruments in order to prolong proceedings and “wait out” the conseqentially limited life spans of the victims who were compelled to become life long plaintiffs. This sort of legal stategy and tactical brinksmanship has been practised in other parts of the world, even to being orchestrated today by the events in the Gulf of Mexico, to the great fustration of President Obama, who as the leader of the single most powerful nation state on the planet, cannot secure the culpability of the corporate entities involved to their fullest extent. Keeping in mind that transnational corporations also have many directand indirect relationships with the national governments in the countries they operate in, those who govern must also take a share of liabilty when at the same time they are legally and morally charged with seeking justice and practical compensation on behalf of their victimized citizenry. This dual reality simultaneously negates any form of swift and complete justice being handed down, and results in many years leading even to decades, to court actions and decisions being rendered, during which time the corporation(s) involved may accumulate profits which will dilute the financial impact of legal penalties which otherwise might have been paid out inside a much shorter time frame. To surmise, Mumbai was conducted by a smaller entity whose only role was to kill or be killed inside a day, with a longer term goal of an act of war between two soverign states. In Bophal, this evewnt was an act of deliberate negligence, meant to secure mathematically maximized long term profits for the private entities involved, removed from the government of the countriy where its operartions took place. The subsequent legal measures were conducted in a manner standard with international corporate laws and proceedures to maintain the survival of the corporate entity at fault, regardless of the damages and suffering of large numbers of victims over an unlimited time period. Both events are the subjects of tremendous evils and moral wrongs designed to consume vast amounts of lives, and are yet different in the challenges and procedures demanding different responses by India’s justice and legal codes and court system. Justice is not entirely blind as this dilemma presents itself on the surface. The moral certitudes of right and wrong are still clearly and philosophically defined, along with the rights to life. Arriving at a just timetable to see these values awarded to the victims of these crimes is what binds the justice code. Justice is blind to that which may taint or distract from the purity of its moral and philosophical certainties, but it is not all powerful over the pratical limitations of the secular world in its deliverence.

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