Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has defended senior Congress leader Arjun Singh for his decision as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister in 1984 to release Warren Anderson, former chairman of the American parent company Union Carbide Corp responsible for the Bhopal gas tragedy.
“It is clear in Arjun Singh's statement, which he had made then that law and order situation was deteriorating. People frenzy was on high, therefore it was thought necessary to move out Warren Anderson,” said Mukherjee on Sunday.
Mukherjee's statement comes at a time when the Congress is under pressure to explain why Anderson was released after being arrested on 7 December 1984 when the deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leak from Union Carbide's Bhopal plant had killed thousands of people just five days ago.
Arjun Singh is believed to have ordered his officials to release Anderson but the Congress party's critics allege that he was instructed to do so by the Central government which was then led by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Moti Singh, who was the District Collector of Bhopal at the time of gas leak, has said that Anderson was arrested at around 2 pm on December 7 but he was released the same day and flew out of Bhopal in a state government plane to New Delhi.
Anderson was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, grievous assault and killing and poisoning human beings and animals.
A Bhopal trial court on June 7 convicted eight Indian officials of Union Carbide for their criminal negligence that triggered the world's worst industrial disaster, but Anderson was not mentioned in the judgment.