Bhopal gas tragedy: Pilot who flew Anderson to Delhi reveals 'flight authorized by CM'
“Flight authorized by CM” — this was the entry in the journey log book of the aircraft that ferried late Union Carbide chairman Anderson out of Bhopal in 1984.
BHOPAL: “Flight authorized by CM” — this was the entry in the journey log book of the aircraft that ferried late Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson out of Bhopal on December 7, 1984. This is what the pilot — captain Sayed Hafiz Ali revealed before justice (retd) S L Kochhar commission probing Anderson’s escape from India. Ali was the pilot of the aircraft (VT-EID King Air-200C) which flew Anderson to Delhi on December 7. Captain Grover was co-pilot.

“Orders for flying out the VIP passenger came from the then director of state aviation captain R C Sodhi,” captain Ali said, putting an end to the 30-year-old controversy over Anderson’s safe passage from Bhopal, hours after his arrival.

In June 2010, the state government had set up a one-man judicial commission to probe, among other things, the then state government’s role in arrest, release and safe passage given to Anderson. He was released on bail within hours of his arrest. Anderson never turned up for trial and was declared absconder. Anderson died in the US recently.

“It was only after landing the aircraft at Delhi airport that we came to know that the passenger we ferried from Bhopal was Anderson. For us it was a routine flight,” capitan Ali told TOI. He retired in 2004.

The journey log book — which was considered crucial evidence for authorization of flight, is not in India any longer. Sources claim that the state aviation department sold this aircraft to Span Air Pvt Ltd, a company owned by former Union minister Kamal Nath’s son in 1998 and the company sold it again to a foreign company. This aircraft was last seen at Delhi airport on July 5, 2006, as per a website that keeps tab on sightings of planes.

“We usually don’t interact with passengers. I remember a senior police officer (then superintendent of police Swaraj Puri) coming to drop Anderson at the state hangar and then an unknown person came to receive him at Delhi airport. I went to drop him at the airport, but we didn’t talk. He got into the car and went away,” capitan Ali recalls.

In this file photo, two men carry to a hospital children blinded by the Union Carbide chemical pesticide leak in Bhopal.

Justice Kochhar had recently sought information from PMO and Union home ministry about the arrest and subsequent release of Anderson and how he was provided with a state aircraft to leave Bhopal for Delhi after his release.

N R Krishnan, secretary to former chief minister Arjun Singh, was also summoned to appear before the commission for recording his statement over the authorization of the aircraft that flew Anderson to Delhi.

Last month, the Jabalpur bench of high court accepted a PIL asking the state government to disclose all details about Anderson’s exit. “People do not know the reality as to how Anderson could get an aircraft and who authorized the state aviation department to fly him to Delhi. This essential information has not been made public,” says the petitioner, NGO Nagrik Upbhokta Margdarshak Manch.

Victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy take part in a candle light march to mark the 30th anniversary of the tragedy in Bhopal on Sunday.

The division bench of Chief Justice Ajay Khanvilkar and justice Vandana Kasrekar clubbed the PIL with another petition related to the tragedy and the case will be heard next month.

Several RTIs seeking details on the use of a state plane to ferry Anderson were rejected by the state aviation department in recent years on grounds that the matter is decades-old.

The applicant had sought to know from the aviation department about the file that sanctioned the flight, name of the person who sanctioned it, and passengers who took the flight.

A woman is seen spitting on a photograph of Warren Anderson, former chairman of Union Carbide Corporation during a condemnation meeting in Bhopal.