“ICICI Bank drags Sundaram to court”, Mint, 31 March, is a classic case where the provisions of the Negotiable Instruments Act—intended to give confidence in cheque transactions—are misused. Banks and others take advance cheques and avoid documentation for this, since enforcement of such documents in civil cases is cumbersome. Instead, by presenting the cheque and getting it returned, they can threaten a criminal case. An amendment that the provision won’t be applied in case advance cheques are issued, or a severe penalty, will avoid misuse.
-Dayananda Kamath K.
“Prevent a third Bhopal tragedy”, Mint, 2 April, by Praful Bidwai should shock every Indian.
Shocking is the revelation that the successor to the Bhopal killers, Dow Chemicals, should have the audacity to tell our government that it will agree to bear the cost of cleaning the Bhopal site only if “it’s freed of all legal liabilities, including criminal liability on charges of culpable homicide”. It is also shocking that Dow Chemicals is lobbying our officials, holding out the lure of large investments “if it is let off the liability hook”, and a few Central ministers, important corporate chiefs and US business chamber CEOs are supporting its stand. It’s unfortunate that our law ministry (noted for its Ram Sethu affidavit) is soft-pedalling the stand of the chemicals and fertilizers ministry that Dow Chemicals is legally liable.
Not only a third tragedy, but many more tragedies shall befall us if vested interests—both in and outside the government— not only scuttle the government’s case for pursuing to a logical conclusion the claims against the adjudged offenders, but also reward them handsomely with further projects.
That such vested interests are succeeding can be seen from how the Maharashtra government has given 65ha of grazing land in Pune to Dow Chemicals, destroying the lives and livelihood of the community around. The villagers are aggrieved that they have been kept out of the loop in the decision-making, and that they were not given satisfactory answers for their apprehensions in the proceedings before the high-power body set up by the state government to inquire into the deal with Dow.
This project seems similar to the Nandigram case when we find that the Maharashtra government had to send two truckloads of police to accompany three trucks of building material to the site for forcibly starting the construction activity.
The learning from all this is that the government is taking humiliating decisions, whether in regard to Tibet or in granting uncalled-for concessions to the successors of a guilty multinational, to please great powers and not in furtherance of national and people’s interests.
Not only does our Prime Minister need to listen to the grievances of the Bhopal victims, he also needs to ensure that his government is not swayed by lobbyists—within and outside—to end up toeing their line and rewarding the companies in question with public money.
Thanks, meanwhile, to Mint for publishing the above article.
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