Monday, November 29, 1999

Sorabjee turned down offer to be Carbide lawyer

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London, June 17 -- A legal firm representing Union Carbide tried to hire Soli Sorabjee as its lawyer immediately after the Bhopal disaster but the man who went on to become India's attorney general rebuffed the overtures saying he would rather advise victims. Sorabjee, who is on a visit to London, revealed this to HT amid an uproar over the recent trial court conviction of eight people for the 1984 disaster. The audacious bid to corral Sorabjee into the Union Carbide Corporation's team of lawyers was made by law firm JB Dadachanji and Co, which was representing the company just when major lawsuit loomed. "I said 'no' - I refused," Sorabjee said. "They said I was being judgemental (about Carbide's role in Bhopal). But I said the victims of the disaster may want my advice." Carbide already had the services of the some of India's finest legal brains, including Nani Palkhivala, Fali Nariman and Anil Diwan. Sorabjee was the obvious next choice. "They wanted to block me (from appearing for the government or the victims). But my heart was with the victims," he said. Sorabjee spoke about the unusual exchange in a bid to clear up a common misunderstanding about his role in the Bhopal gas leak. As Attorney General, Sorabjee told the government in 2001 that any request for the extradition of Carbide chief Warren Anderson was likely to be rejected by the Americans. "I did not advise the government not to seek Anderson's extradition. I was asked to give my opinion on whether an extradition request would be met and I said that it was unlikely," said Sorabjee, who based his opinion on advice from a reputed law firm. Sorabjee also said he had a meeting with senior government officials, who said they would be unable to dig out the kind of rigorous evidence Washington needed to extradite Anderson.

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