Where are N K Singh Commission papers?
Posted September 1, 2011on:
A new commission on the Bhopal gas leak disaster has started functioning more than a year after chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan had announced his intention to constitute it. In August last year, the chief minister had even announced the name of the judge, Justice S L Kochar, for heading the one-man commission. Justice Kochar was to retire from the Madhya Pradesh High Court two months later.
The terms of reference announced by the State government for the new commission had the hallmark of Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s politics of mischief. The commission was asked to inquire if the rules and regulations were complied with while setting up the Union Carbide plant, if adequate measures were taken by Union Carbide to prevent mishaps, and if adequate safety measures were installed by Union Carbide for the disposal of the hazardous waste after the 1984 disaster. More importantly, the commission would inquire into the role of the State government and others in the arrest, release and in providing safe passage to Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson, and any other matter arising out of or incidental to these issues. The matters obviously pertain to the Congress governments.
The terms did not mention the role of the politicians, bureaucrats and judicial officers in depriving the lakhs of the victims of medical, economic, social and environmental rehabilitation by pocketing the major share of the hundreds of crores of rupees spent in the name of the gas victims. The BJP governments of Sunderlal Patwa and of Shivraj Singh Chauhan himself will stand out as the biggest culprits if such an inquiry were held. Moreover, the Patwa government had played the most obnoxious role in closing down the projects started to provide succour to the gas victims during the Congress regime of Motitlal Vora.
The Union Carbide Poisonous Gas Leak Investigation Commission (the official nomenclature given to the commission) has urged citizens to submit documents or statements which may throw light on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy and its perpetrators. A release issued by Commission Secretary Shashimohan Shrivastava on august 18 said: ”The general public, any institution or organisation — which is aware of the inquiry’s subject matter — may submit written statements, evidence, documents or affidavits.”
Fresh documents with solid evidence are difficult to come by after the lapse of such a long time and also because the Chauhan government-appointed commission inspires little confidence among those who have been affected by the 1984 disaster. However, there is a way out for the commission to bring out the facts which may throw light on what led to the disaster and who were directly responsible for that. It may, though, be a formidable task for the Kochar commission in view of the extraordinarily friendly attitude of the State government, the Central government and the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, towards the executives of the Union Carbide/ Dow Chemical.
Faced with the countrywide horror at the disaster that had struck the unsuspecting residents of Bhopal in the night of December 2-3, 1984, then chief minister Arjun Singh had instituted a judicial inquiry into all aspects of the disaster and its aftermath. Justice N K Singh of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, who headed the one-member inquiry commission, directed the State government on March 26, 1985 to file its statement which the government did eight months later, on November 28. Another fortnight was taken by the government to file the list of documents relied upon. The Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), the subsidiary of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), which was directly responsible for operating the pesticides plant in Bhopal, also filed its statement. Then the State government abruptly terminated the inquiry commission on December 17, 1985 – and thus scuttled the investigation of the magnitude and the ramifications of the Bhopal gas leak disaster.
Reports suggest that there were dozens of documents which the government had submitted to the commission, along with its version of what had gone wrong and how. The statement filed by the UCIL was also said to be running into hundreds of pages. There must be something threatening in these documents and the statement of the UCIL that made the State government hurriedly wind up the inquiry commission and seize all the documents.
These documents and statements must be with the State government, unless Arjun Singh and his unscrupulous IAS aides had sold these to the Union Carbide which they were quite capable of and had actually indulged in such abominable acts. If the N K Singh commission papers are still with the State government, the Kochar commission should not have much difficulty in getting them though the IAS fraternity will try hard to resist any such attempt. However, if the papers are with the Union Carbide, then it is near impossible to get the papers because of Manmohan Singh at the head of the Union government and the Justice S H Kapadia-headed Supreme Court which had shown its unabashed bias towards the Union Carbide in dismissing the curative petition (against the 1996 order) after admitting during the hearing that the 1996 order of the apex court was wrong. Still, the Kochar commission can seek the papers. At least it will help further expose the friends of Union Carbide in India.