IBN-E-REHMAT It is common clich that justice delayed is justice denied. India keeps making tall claims about being the largest democratic country, a country that stands for all the good reasons like constitutional supremacy, judicial righteousness and secular polity - and expects praises on that score. But the Bhopal court decision announced on June 6, 2010, after nearly 26 years of the Bhopal tragedy shook the various segments of the law-abiding citizens. Bhopal, located in the heart of India, a city standing by the lakes, has a unique history since centuries. Some 25 years ago on the night of December 3, 1984, gas started spewing out from one of the pesticide plant, owned and run by an American named Warren Anderson, Chairman Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL). According to reports, large amounts of water reacted with Methyl Isocyante (MIC) to emit gases in order to produce a pesticide at about 200 degree temperature caused alarm but the UCIL administration denied any leakage. The leakage virtually continued affecting 36 municipal wards of Bhopal and the estimated number of exposed persons is 559,835. According to the Indian government, there were 3,787 immediate deaths due to MIC poisoning, 8,000 to 10,000 persons died within 72 hours and 25,000 later due to its after-effects. On June 6, 2010, Chief Judicial Magistrate convicted seven former officials of the UCIL after a protracted criminal trial. They were awarded a maximum of two years in prison, while eight accused died during the trial. The official, who was in charge of the gas tragedy probe, maintained that the central government was never serious about trying Anderson, who was booked under Section 304(a) of the Indian Constitution, after watering down charges against him generally imposed against the defaulters of road accidents. The victims of the Bhopal tragedy thus termed the decision a judicial tragedy which they believe is too little and too late. Reacting to the court verdict, the angry victims fulminated saying that the Bhopal plant was designed, owned, operated and managed on a day-to-day basis by UCIL and its employees, who appeared in the court to face charges in such bits and pieces that ultimately ruined all prospects of imparting justice to the bereaved families. According to one of the Muslims, who actually filed a petition that led to the revival of the criminal proceedings, the verdict is a mockery of justice as it not only came late, but also left the main accused to go scot-free. A major chunk of the Indian civil society felt that the verdict should have set an example for multinationals and warned them that they could not play with the lives of the poor people and get away with it. According to them, the Indian government only takes care of the multinationals interest and pays no heed to the interests of the poor victims. What is more important about the Bhopal tragedy is not the unusual delay or the magnitude of the loss, which the country experienced but the Indian governments uninterrupted verbal assault against Pakistan over the inadequate security measures taken to protect its nukes, with the bombardment of apprehensions that these lethal weapons would fall into the hands of militants. The next casualty of their charges would be Iran. The Bhopal incident is, indeed, an eye-opener for the world as to how mature, professionally sound and careful the Indians are. How could a country that did not take into account the fallout to be caused by the leakage of the most lethal gases after hearing the sirens and even police alerts, react to any Chernobyl incident? Besides, the Bhopal court judgment is a test case of what standards of justice India maintains vis--vis its tall claims that amounts to making a mountain of a molehill to deceive the world community by keeping a lid upon the ground realities. The writer is a freelance columnist.