- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

BHOPAL, India (Agence France-Presse) A court ruled yesterday that a former chairman of U.S.-based Union Carbide Corp. should face culpable homicide charges over the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, rejecting the Indian government's attempt to downgrade them to negligence.

The ruling, after a two-day hearing by Chief Magistrate Rameshwar Khote in this central Indian city, represents a significant victory for victims of the disaster, who are worried that former company Chairman Warren Anderson will escape punishment.

Mr. Khote said he had ruled as he did because Mr. Anderson himself had not applied to the court for a reduction of the charges.

In India, Mr. Anderson is regarded as an absconder after he consistently failed to appear in court and returned to the United States, where his current whereabouts are unknown.

Mr. Khote ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Indian equivalent of the FBI that had brought the application to reduce the charges, to proceed with the culpable homicide case.

Mr. Anderson now faces the prospect of being extradited from the United States to stand trial in India, where, if found guilty, he faces a jail term of up to 20 years.

However, the CBI can resubmit its application to the state High Court and to the Indian Supreme Court, which could delay the extradition process.

At least 3,000 people died when a gas leak occurred at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on Dec. 3, 1984, and more than half a million people were seriously injured.

At least 10,000 more deaths have been linked to the disaster, according to victims' groups that opposed the reduction of charges.

If the government had succeeded in getting the charges reduced, Mr. Anderson could have evaded trial in India, as a bilateral extradition treaty does not cover cases of negligence.

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