A court declared former Union Carbide Corp. Chairman Warren Anderson a fugitive Thursday for ignoring orders that he appear to answer charges of culpable homicide in the deaths of more than 3,000 people in the 1984 Bhopal gas leak.
"Warren Anderson, the accused Number 1 in the case, deliberately did not appear in the court so he is declared an absconder," ruled Chief Judicial Magistrate R.C. Mishra in Bhopal, 375 miles south of New Delhi.Mishra said the former chief executive of the U.S.-based multinational corporation should attend court by March 31 and directed that the order declaring him a fugitive be published in Indian newspapers and posted in local courts and outside the gate of the company's defunct pesticide plant in Bhopal.
The ruling means that Anderson may be arrested if he comes to India after March 31.
U.S. Prasad, the counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) - India's equivalent of the FBI - said the government would approach Washington to seek Anderson's extradition.
A Union Carbide spokesman in Danbury, Conn., said the firm questioned the legality of Thursday's ruling in Bhopal. "This is simply not a case for extradition," said spokesman Earl Slack.
"Mr. Anderson's only connection with Bhopal was his journey there to bring aid to the victims," he said, referring to a visit Anderson paid to India shortly after the accident.
In his decision, Mishra upheld the government's contention that Anderson ignored summons to appear in court to respond to charges filed against him by the CBI of culpable homicide in the deaths of more than 3,000 people who succumbed to poisonous fumes that spewed from an undergound tank at Union Carbide's plant Dec. 3, 1984.
About 200,000 other people were injured by exposure to the vapors that covered large areas of the Madhya Pradesh state capital in history's worst industrial disaster.
Anderson was arrested in India when he landed four days later to assess the situation and was released on $1,666 bail after giving assurances that he would appear in court when required.
The government claims Union Carbide's failure to install adequate safety systems and other alleged acts of negligence were responsible for the leak. It filed suit against the firm and is seeking $3 billion in damages for 500,000 people whose lives it claims were irreversibly affected.