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7 Jun, 2010 23:34

Uproar over light sentences for officials guilty in ’84 Bhopal deaths

There's been a furious reaction in India after a court sentenced eight people to just two years in prison -- despite their roles in an industrial disaster which took 15,000 lives.

On Monday the court in Bhopal sentenced seven people to two years in prison for death by negligence. Of the eight people charged within the case, one has died before the sentence was handed down. The Monday verdict deals only with Indian nationals involved in the case. The court also ordered the company to pay a fine of 500,000 Indian rupees (about $10,000).

The accident at the pesticide plant belonging to the Indian branch of the US chemical corporation Union Carbide struck in 1984. Due to staff negligence during repairs the plant released tons of poisonous gases into the air and the wind carried deadly clouds into slum districts. The official death toll of the Bhopal accident is 3500, while unofficial figure is as high as 25,000. Regardless, Bhopal is the deadliest industrial disaster in human history.

In 1989, Union Carbide paid the Indian government $470 million for an out-of-court settlement. Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson was arrested in India shortly after the disaster, but fled to the United States after being released on bail. To this day Anderson continues to successfully avoid India’s extradition requests.