New Delhi (Agencies): Sluggish probe by the CBI and long judicial proceedings marred the cause of justice in the Bhopal gas tragedy case which took the lives of over 15,000 people and injured several thousands, a former senior official in-charge of the probe for some time, has claimed.

BR Lall, ex-Director General of Haryana Police, who had supervised the case between April 26, 1994 and July 1995, charged the then government at the Centre with reducing the USD 3,300 million compensation to USD 470 million in settling all outstanding civil and criminal liability matters.

Lall, in his book 'Free the CBI --power games in Bhopal and other cases', claimed there was political pressure in influencing investigation in key cases, including dramatic release of Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson and selection of Central Vigilance Commissioner.

"Bhopal case has been a tragedy of errors, commissions and omissions that extended from non-appreciations of the situation, delays, pressures, disregard to the sufferings of the lay people and all that; where every wing of the state slipped and the judiciary had the steepest fall...," Lall said. 

"The investigations took full three years, though it was not a task of more than six months. In the process the arrest of Anderson was messed up. The trial by judiciary should have been over by 1985 end or early 1986, but took decades and still the justice continues to be a mirage," he said.

The CBI had taken over the case from Bhopal police on December 9, just five days after the tragedy occurred on December 3, 1984.

Immediately after the tragedy, some attorneys in USA filed legal suits in the US courts for damages or compensation totalling USD 15 billion and more. However, the union government restrained them by promulgating the 'Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (processing of claims) Ordinance 1985', he has charged.

It was made a law on March 29, 1985 and the State took over all the responsibility to fight all the suits on behalf of the citizens. "It was thought to be a good step and much was made to be expected of it, but unfortunately it became a tool of collective organised surrender of Indian interests instead of protecting the same... "The Union of India filed a consolidated claim amounting to USD 3.3 billion in India for damages and compensation. This was besides the criminal case that was under investigation with the CBI," Lall said.
In February 1989 an agreement was reached between the Government of India and the Union Carbide, settling all the outstanding matters for a compensation of USD 470 million.

"The Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) had originally offered to pay USD 350 million plus interest that added up to USD 426 million, whereas after scaling down the demand from USD 3,300 million, the negotiators of the government of India were stuck at only USD 500 million.

"Both the sides left it to the Supreme Court that moderated the amount in between at USD 470 million. This was a sell out as cases worth USD 15 billion duly filed in courts were withdrawn post haste and a revised claim of USD 3.3 billion was filed," he said.

The former police official also questioned the way Anderson was allowed to return to the USA and mentioned in detail a communication received during the period of investigation by the Ministry of External Affairs asking CBI not to pursue his extradition.