Dominique Lapierre questions ban on Bhopal gas tragedy book

July 17th, 2009 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) French author Dominique Lapierre has questioned the ban on a book he co-wrote on the Bhopal gas tragedy, saying it had been substantiated by another book that had been written by a senior government official who was the collector of Bhopal when the tragedy occurred.
“We are surprised, considering that all portions objected to (by petitioner) Swaraj Puri have been substantiated and more by Moti Singh, (who was the collector in Bhopal at that time and to whom Puri was reporting to on a day to day basis), in a book written by him on the Bhopal tragedy,” a statement by Full Circle, the publisher of “It Was Five Past Midnight in Bhopal”, quoted Lapierre as saying.

Judge Rajeev Singh of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had earlier this week passed an interim order restraining the book, co-authored by Javier Moro, from being published and distributed across the country.

The order came on a defamation suit filed by former Madhya Pradesh police chief Swaraj Puri against the authors and publisher for carrying allegedly defamatory remarks attributed to him in the book, based on the events that led to the fateful night of December 3, 1984 and which was first published in 2001.

Full Circle counsel Pradeep Bakshi said he would appeal the ban in the Supreme Court.

“The book is not defamatory. It is based on statements of fact and interviews that are well documented,” Bakshi added.

On Dec 25 2005, 21 years after the tragedy and almost four years after the book was published, Puri sent a legal notice to the author and publishers of the book.

At that time, Lapierre said that he had documented proof in addition to interviews with government officials and amongst others with Moti Singh, then the collector of Bhopal, to corroborate the facts.

“Between 2002 and 2005, Puri tried to claim money from the authors and publishers.

Obviously, Lapierre also refused to pay Puri’s demand for $10 million initially, which was raised to $ 20 million later. In January 2005 Puri filed a defamation case,” the Full Circle statement said.

Lawyer Bakshi said: “I am surprised that such an order (by the high court) has been passed against a Padma Bhushan laureate, recognized by the people of India for his philanthropy here and who is also known worldwide for the painstaking research he does for his books.

“He has extensive notes and tapes of his interviews to substantiate his narration of events,” Bakshi said.

According to Bakshi, “the whole issue is about money. Puri has earlier demanded $10 million and increased it later to $20 million plus legal fees.

“If Puri truly felt defamed, how come he didn’t appear in court for two-and-a-half years in person or through his counsel? In fact, the court had to issue a notice to Puri on March 14 to appear in court,” Bakshi added.

The lawyer also pointed out that Moti Singh’s book on the gas tragedy published in 2005 “also contains everything said by Lapierre and Moro in their book.

“But there was no case against him as it was written by a seniormost government officer who was privy to all actual facts and information. Ironically, Moti Singh’s book is even more unflattering, as it implies that legal action should be taken against Puri for his inaction during those fateful days,” Bakshi added.

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