BJP invokes Sohrabuddin, even Emergency

New Delhi, August 12: Opening a discussion on the Bhopal gas tragedy in the House by calling it “corporate manslaughter”, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj called upon the Government to trash the out-of-court settlement with Union Carbide and seek a higher compensation from current owner Dow Chemicals.

Drawing a contrast with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, in which the BJP’s former Gujarat minister Amit Shah has been arrested, Swaraj said in the Bhopal case, the CBI had failed to serve the summons twice on Anderson.

Swaraj, who represents Vidisha, bordering Bhopal, told the Government to emulate the US Administration — which has slapped a claim of Rs 90,000 crore on British Petroleum for an oil spill — become a party to a suit filed in the US by some NGOs and extract a higher compensation from Dow Chemicals.

To prove her point of the government letting off Union Carbide easily, she read out the 1989 out-of-court settlement, which stated “the settlement shall finally dispose of all past, present and future claims, causes of action, civil and criminal proceedings of any nature whatsoever….”

Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Narayanasamy sprang up to ask who was the prime minister in 1989, leading to a retort from Swaraj: “Don’t ask — you will be exposed.” “Rajiv Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi,” BJP members shouted, forcing the minister to sit down. “Why were the accused in the Bhopal gas tragedy let off?” Swaraj further asked, referring to the release of Warren Anderson. She asked why the Congress was kind to “firangis”, be it Anderson or Ottavio Quattrrochi.

Swaraj alleged that several people benefitted from the tragedy: one of the judges went on to join the International Court of Justice, while another became a member of the Rajya Sabha. Her reference to the Sohrabuddin case, and the CBI’s “prompt” arrest of Amit Shah for killing of a convict wanted in a TADA case, drew shouts of “shame, shame” from BJP members.

BJP MP Kailash Joshi, who represents Bhopal, said the Arjun Singh government in the state had facilitated the exit of Anderson. “A social organisation run by him got donation from Union Carbide as money was required for elections,” he said.

Congress members demanded that the remarks be expunged because Arjun Singh was a member of the other House. Joshi claimed that the person who ran the organisation had publicly admitted the same.

Francisco Sardinha, who was presiding, requested Joshi not to level any allegation, but did not expunge the remarks.

Jagdambika Pal of the Congress sought to know why the BJP hadn’t done anything when it was in power.

Joshi demanded Rs 10 lakh each for the dead, Rs 5 lakh each for the seriously injured and Rs 2 lakh for every person who had been affected.

In the Rajya Sabha, the BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Union Carbide plant was “an illegitimate gift of the Emergency”. “Union Carbide had applied for licence in 1970. All officials were opposed to it because the technology was obsolete… They opposed for five years… The Emergency came on 26th June, 1975, and they were given the licence on 31st October, 1975. The District Judge had noted that in spite of repeated requests, no proof was given for the safety standard in Bhopal.”

Initiating a short duration discussion, Prasad said justice and accountability had been “the real casualty”.