BHOPAL LITIGATION

Around the late 1960s, the Union Carbide India Limited factory was built in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh so that India could make chemical pesticides. These pesticides were made with a variety of dangerous chemicals. One of these chemicals were methyl isocyanate. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy was a result of the leak of the methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) plant which manufactured pesticides. On the night of December 2-3, 1984, there was a leak of the MIC gas which is considered to be the most toxic chemical in industrial use large volume of water had been introduced into the MIC tank. This caused a chemical reaction that forced the pressure release valve to open and allowed the gas to leak. The people of Bhopal were exposed to this gas and the immediate effects were coughing, vomiting, severe eye irritation and a feeling of suffocation. Thousands of people died immediately and lakhs of people sustained permanent injuries. The long term health effects of the gas include visual impairment, blindness, respiratory difficulties, immune and neurological disorders, lung injury, female reproductive difficulties and birth defects among children born to affected women. The litigation in India pertaining to the Bhopal tragedy can be broken into four distinct categories:

•           Civil litigation.

•           Criminal litigation.

•           Curative Petition litigation.

•           Public Interest Litigation.

CIVIL LITIGATION

In the February of 1985, the Indian Government filed a case in the U.S Court for a claim of $3.3 billons against the Union Carbide Corporation. In September 1986, the Government of India (GOI) instituted a civil suit against Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in the Court of the District Judge, Bhopal, India, on behalf of all victims of the disaster. The Indian Supreme Court in 1988 urged UCC, Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) and the Government of India to reach a final global settlement.  In February 1989, after 24 days of hearings, the Supreme Court recommended a $470 million global settlement that was accepted by UCC, UCIL and the Government of India. The settlement resolved the civil litigation and quashed the criminal proceedings.

CRIMINAL LITIGATION

In the year 1987 the criminal proceedings were initiated by the Central Bureau Investigation against the chairman of UCC, Warren. M.Anderson. Since the clause in the settlement order which quashed the criminal proceedings was held invalid and unjustifiable by the Supreme Court, they were ordered to appear before the Indian criminal court in 1992, but did not because the court lacked criminal jurisdiction over them and the criminal charges had been quashed as part of the global settlement[1]. The proceedings were initiated under Section 304 A, and Sections 336, 337, and 338 read with Section 35 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 304 A deals with causing death by negligence. Sections 336, 337 and Section 338 deal with the offences of endangering life and personal safety of others. This is read along with Section 35 which deals with the aspect of common intention. In 1996, the Supreme Court of India reduced the charges against the Indian defendants to the lesser offense of causing death by a “rash or negligent act. The judgement was delivered on June 7, 2010, 26 years after the disaster, all the appropriate people from UCIL officers and those who actually ran the plant on a daily basis were convicted of negligence[2].

PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION

An activist filed a public interest litigation in 2004 against the Government of India , Madhya Pradesh State Government , the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and The Dow Chemical Company , with non-governmental organizations in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh to hold TDCC responsible for the undischarged liabilities of Union Carbide Corporation for all pollution impacts, provide long-term medical care, and clean up the site, research and monitoring related to plant site pollution ,UCC declined to appear citing lack of jurisdiction. A Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court in 2006 was filed by the State of Gujarat challenging the orders of the Madhya Pradesh High Court directing disposal of Bhopal wastes in Gujarat. The apex court suggested that the Government Of India should form a committee with the representatives of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat so as to come up with solution. The Committee recommended that the wastes be incinerated, after a trial run, at an incinerator being constructed at the Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) in Pithampur. The Government Of India also filed a petition in the Supreme Court to transfer the PIL to the Supreme Court and have it decided together with the Curative Petition, which included environmental claims wholly unrelated to the gas disaster. Both TDCC and the activist groups opposed the Transfer Petition, which the Supreme Court has not decided. In August 2013, activists filed the five-year remediation plan prepared by the Indian Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and based on a conference of GOI officials, experts and activists held in New Delhi, India, on April 25-26, 2013. A trial incineration of some waste from the Bhopal plant site was conducted in August 2015.

CONCLUSION

The Government of India always makes laws after the incident has happened. It is not pro-active. The tragedy in Bhopal occurred due to negligence and due care, post that the cleaning up of the waste from the industries was difficult since there was no proper disposal ground. The most difficult part was getting compensation since UCC was out of Indian jurisdiction, and most importantly no proper laws regarding liability and environmental pollution had been form in India. All the environmental laws came up only after the PIL were filed by the environmentalist & advocate M.C Mehta! More strict rules regarding sanctioning of licenses to chemical industries should be made and license should be granted only after the adequate rules are followed.


[1] http://www.bhopal.com/Bhopal-Litigation-in-India/Criminal-Litigation, visited on 31-08-2021 at 17:04hrs.

[2] Deepikanuals -legal aspects of Bhopal gas tragedy, http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/373/Legal-Aspects-of-the-Bhopal-Gas-Tragedy.html , visited on 31-08-2021 at 17:07hrs.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.