Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pass the methyl isocyanate, please

We’re no banana republic, okay? We’re the world’s largest democracy and we have robust democratic institutions. Take the recently concluded case of the Really Trying, Whiny People of Bhopal vs. The Chaps Who Were Just Making Some Damn Pesticide. India should thank the district court in Bhopal for winding things up in a lightning twenty-six years, because frankly, nobody wants to go on listening to aforesaid really trying, whiny people say the same things witness after witness, year after year. Untold suffering is so out.

Hear ye, o people of India: don’t think you can get away with really bad stuff, because the long arm of the law will reach out and bring you to trial and give you what you deserve. In Bhopal the law heard 178 prosecution witnesses on the stand talk about the estimated 25,000 people who have died or suffered from methyl isocyanate poisoning and its after-effects since 1984; it heard eight defence witnesses mutter darkly about sabotage; it examined 3,000-odd documents; it fast-tracked the whole thing so that only one of the accused died in the process. The law weighed up the evidence, decided the accused were guilty, and then fearlessly sentenced them to the legal equivalent of a wedgie.

Do you really want a wedgie, o people of India?

Didn’t think so. Better wise up and keep your misdeeds on this side of horrific, else you may be asked to sit in prison for two years and pay a lakh of rupees. You’ll get bail in the evening, but the whole thing is an avoidable spot of bother. Do you really want inconvenience and fines to pay, o people of India? Didn’t think so.

The judge, Mohan P. Tiwari, summed up the Bhopal verdict by saying: “Surely justice has been done.” If this sounds strangely like a question to himself, it’s probably just the inherent ambiguity of language at work. Some people said things like “travesty of justice” and “too little, too late” but we must remember that they are not judges with a mandate to retain a sense of proportion and fairness, and dole out punishment commensurate with the goof-up. It’s as if, after twenty-six years of the court trying this case, people expected it to try harder.

Some of these tiresome people also wanted to know why Warren Anderson, big cheese of the Union Carbide Corporation, was arrested at the time of the disaster and then allowed to leave the country. The former Joint Director of the CBI, who on TV looked as if he hadn’t slept for twenty-six years, revealed that the Ministry of External Affairs directed that extradition attempts be dropped. He also said that asking for an extradition now simply “exposes us that why did we drop it?” Well said. Had everyone forgotten about our National Image?

I wish all these carping critics would focus on the good bits, the way that US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake did when he said, “We hope that this is going to help to bring closure to the victims and their families.” Positive thinking can change your life, you know.

Now that we have a benchmark, though, I really think it’s time for the judiciary to be similarly fair with Ajmal Kasab. He may be halfwit with a rage problem who waged war on India, but I mean, the guy only killed seven people and didn’t have a visa to enter India and that sort of thing. It seems awfully extreme to be talking about the death penalty when he’s so young and full of promise. I say let’s just wash his mouth out with soap and fly him home. For free.


Sanand said...

Interesting write up which takes me back to another article that I found equally interesting on the Bhopal gas tragedy.

You can find it at http://www.lawisgreek.com/bhopal-gas-tragedy-india/

Avi said...

Fantastically Sarcastic !

Nagesh said...

Sarcastic but Apt. It took 26 years and a court judgement for the collector, pilot, bureaucrats and politicians to wake up to reveal events and comment.

Justice, the Indian way.

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