Ashutosh Shukla, Hindustan Times
Bhopal, November 12, 2014

The Bhopal chief judicial magistrate (CJM) on Wednesday re-issued summons to US chemical giant Dow Chemical to appear in court and explain why its subsidiary Union Carbide did not submit itself to court of law for trial in the 1984 gas disaster. Dow Chemical had taken over Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in 2000, six years after a poisonous gas leak in the Madhya Pradesh capital killed more than 3,500 people.

The court of CJM decided the Bhopal gas disaster criminal case on June 9, 2010 with UCC, UCC (Hong Kong) and former UCC chairman Warren Anderson not appearing for the trial and declared absconders by the court.

Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA) had filed an application in the court way back on February 26, 2004 to Dow Chemical asking it to explain why it could not make its 100 per cent subsidiary to appear in court.

Following lengthy legal wranglings, the court issued summons to Dow Chemical at its US headquarters in Michigan on July 23, 2013, asking the company’s representatives to appear in court on November 12, 2014.

Appearing in the court of CJM on Wednesday, CBI counsel Arpit Mishra said that summons issued against Dow Chemical had been duly processed and sent to the American justice department for execution but it has not responded to the request so far.

Mishra, who also handed over a progress report to CJM Pankaj Singh Maheshwari on the steps taken by the CBI to serve summons on Dow, apprised the judge that the investigation agency had initiated the process in August itself and the summons was forwarded to ministry of home for further action, which in turn sent the summons to US department of justice for execution in October this year.

He, however, admitted that US justice department has not responded to their request till now.

When the judge asked how much more time  the CBI needed to ensure that the summons was served, Mishra said one to one to one-and- a half month.

He also referred to media reports that Warren Anderson had died and said if the court permits, the CBI would like to get the news verified from appropriate authorities in USA.

The court, later, ordered that summons be reissued to the company and handed over to CBI for execution in USA. The next hearing would be on March 14, 2015.

CBI going slow on Dow, too?

CBI, which is often accused of doing precious little for expatriation of UCC former chairman Warren Anderson for trial in Bhopal, appears to have learnt no lessons from its failure to ensure trial of Anderson and two companies UCC and UCC (Hong Kong) in connection with Bhopal gas disaster.

It is apparently going slow on Dow Chemical as well when it comes to serving court summons to the company.

The court had issued summons against Dow Chemical on June 23, 2013, posting the case for next hearing more than a year later i.e. November 12, 2014.

It was apparently done to give enough time to CBI to ensure that the summons is served on the company’s headquarter in Michigan.

But, CBI counsel Arpit Mishra, who appeared in the court on Wednesday, had no definite clue on whether the summons has been served on the company.

Since the US justice department, which is supposed to execute any request such as this, didn’t respond to their communication, the CBI is no position to know the status of the case in the US.

The progress report submitted in the court by the CBI also makes it amply clear that there was considerable delay on its part to forward the matter to Union ministry of home as it sent the summons to the ministry as late as August 6, 2014 and in turn, home ministry forwarded it to US’ justice department on October 22, 2014 i.e. less than a month ago.