US Federal Court absolved Union Carbide Corporation in Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case
International Current Affairs 2012. US Federal Court absolved Union Carbide of Bhopal Gas Tragedy case on 27 June 2012
In what came as a major disappointment for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, a US Federal Court on 27 June 2012 absolved Union Carbide Corporation and its former chairman Warren Anderson of the Bhopal gas tragedy case. In his ruling US district Court Judge John F. Keenan concluded that UCC is neither directly nor as an agent of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) liable for the mishap.
While pronouncing its verdict the court invoked a 1998 court verdict in a case involving KFC, in which the court had observed that legally the mere assertion that a corporate parent is or was involved in the decision-making process of its subsidiary, or that it controlled the legitimate policies of its subsidiary, will not shift liabilities among distinct corporate entities.
Nearly 25000 people had lost their life in Bhopal Gas Tragedy, one of the worst industrial disasters of the world history. The disaster occured following the leakage of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas from Union Carbide India Limited’s pesticides factory in Bhopal on 2-3 December 1984. The catastrophic gas leak, immediately claimed the life of 3000 people, while the aftermath of the disaster had proved to be far more horrifying as thousands of people died subsequently due to ill-effects of the toxic waste in the environment. The enormity of the damage can well be assessed by the fact that even today, after 27 years of the incident, the people of Bhopal are facing the wrath of the tragedy.
In a testimony to the long lasting catastrophic impact of the gas leak, a test conducted by the BBC in 2009 found that the water of the affected region contain 1000 times the World Health Organization's recommended maximum amount of carbon tetrachloride, a carcinogenic toxin.
The US court verdict, came in the favor of UCC, has substantiated its long held stance over the Bhopal gas tragedy. The company has long been in denial of all the charges made against it by the victims of the tragedy. Below we are presenting the time line of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and developments realted to it.
2-3 December 1984: The leakage of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas from Union Carbide India Limited’s pesticides factory in Bhopal occured. The gas leakage claimed more than 3000 life as its immediate impact.
3 December 1984: First Information report on the gas disater registered at Bhopal’s Hanuman Ganj police station.
7 December 1984: American Union Carbide Corp’s (UCC) chairman Warren Anderson, along with the multinational’s Indian officials arrested in Bhopal, but granted bail same day.
1 December 1987: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) files charge sheet against Anderson, US-based Union carbide Corp and the Union Carbide Eastern Hong Kong, along with other Indian officials accused.
14 February 1989: The central government inks pact with Union Carbide, absolving the firm and all its officials of civil and criminal liabilities for the disaster for a payment of 470 million dollar.
3 October 1991: The Supreme Court revokes criminal immunity to the firm and its officials.
11 November 1991: Criminal cases against all accused revived in the chief judicial magistrate’s court at Bhopal.
1 Jan 1992: Proclamation for Anderson’s appearance in Bhopal court published in the Washington Post.
10 April 1992: The Bhopal court issues non-bailable arrest warrant against Anderson and directs the central government to seek his extradition from the US.
20 April 1992: The court directs confiscation of UCC’s shares and properties of UCIL.
May-June 1992: The court bifurcates cases of Indian accused from those of US accused, begins trial of Indian accused separately.
May-June 2003: India seeks Anderson’s extradition from the US.
13 July 2004: The US rejects India’s request for Anderson’s extradition.
7 June 2010: The Bhopal court convicts seven Indians, including UCIL’s chairman Keshub Mahindra, and sentences them to two years’ jail.