UNION CARBIDE CORPORATION VS UNION OF INDIA ETC ( BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY CASE)

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy, 1984 was a crisis that had no parallel in the world’s industrial history. It was an industrial accident. A mixture of poisonous gases flooded the city, causing great panic as people woke up with a burning sensation in their lungs. Thousands of people died in sleep immediately from that poisonous gas. This disaster is counted in the list of one of the worlds worst industrial disaster.

The mic leak disaster brought out the incompetence in Indian law as well as the institution that claim themselves to be the protector of rights vested in the citizen of the nation. From parliament decision to fight the case in U.S. to the ambiguous and inappropriate decision of Supreme Court, it was reflected that all the rights and freedom that a citizen is guaranteed is only on papers.

In the year 1934 American industrial giant Union Carbide with the Union of India incorporated Union carbide India limited in India for the manufacture of batteries, chemicals, pesticides and other industrial products. The Union carbide was the majority stakeholder (51%) in the company. In 1970, a new pesticide plant was set up by UCIL n a densely populated area Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh).
Given repeated concerns by the plant’s agronomic engineer about the pesticide plant’s safety measures, UCIL ignored all of these concerns and continued to manufacture harmful & unsafe chemicals in the field.Sadly, on the night of December 02-03, 1984, the Methyl Iso-cynate (MIC) gas (approx. 40 tons) used as a raw material in manufacturing after mixing with water and causing an exothermic reaction leaked into the atmosphere and unleashed a havoc on the people of the whole of Bhopal City and nearby areas.The MIC gas traveled as far as Bhopal’s peripheries, due to high wind pressure. Because of the outbreak of this 1984 ghost in Bhopal as many as 2600 people died instantly, and the death toll rose to an incredible 8000 within a fortnight, while tens of thousands were homeless, wounded and affected.The later estimates indicate that the death toll rose to a massive 20000 while more than 600000 were left injured. Not only did this tragedy harm living human beings, it victimized flora and fauna, it even injured the babies in the womb.Even today, Bhopal residents are suffering because of this ghastly tragedy that happened because of a multinational company’s negligence.

Union of India immediately enacted the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act 1985 (the Bhopal Act) to make the Union of India representative of the victims by virtue of the Parens patriae Doctrine.Nevertheless, the validity of this act was questioned in the Supreme Court in Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India[1] on the grounds that since the Union of India was still the owner of minority shareholders, they are also responsible for the disaster.However, the court by applying CharanlalSahu v. Union of India[2] ruled in favor of the union of India and held that the state is obligated to protect the interests of its citizens across the globe.The court further held that our Constitution makes it imperative for the state to ensure the rights granted by the Constitution to all its people, and where the people are not in a position to claim and defend their rights, the state must come into the picture and protect and fight for citizens ‘ rights.
However, the Union of India shockingly decided to litigate the case in foreign courts instead of fighting it in Indian courts. The Union of India to support its stance of choosing American courts contended the following:

Indian legal system is not appropriate to entertain such big a matter including the flaws of substantial backlogs in the cases.
Both Indian Lawyers and Indian law is not well versed with the laws of Torts therefore, due to gap in law it is probable that justice might not be delivered.
Hence, all the appeals against Union carbide were clubbed before Keenan ‘s court in a single petition. The Keenan ‘s court immediately dismissed the case on forum non conveniens grounds. The American court was of the opinion that all relevant evidence falls within India’s jurisdiction, so it held that Indian courts are better forum for this matter.
Therefore, in September 1986 Union of India initiated proceedings against Union Carbide in Bhopal District Court. The District court asked Union Carbide to deposit as sum of 350 Million as interim compensation. Union Carbide went into appeal in High Court & the court reduced the sum to 250 Million. Finally, Union Carbide reached Supreme Court.ian legal system is not appropriate to entertain such big a matter including the flaws of substantial backlogs in the cases.
Both Indian Lawyers and Indian law is not well versed with the laws of Torts therefore, due to gap in law it is probable that justice might not be delivered.
Hence, all the appeals against Union carbide were clubbed before Keenan ‘s court in a single petition. The Keenan ‘s court immediately dismissed the case on forum non conveniens grounds. The American court was of the opinion that all relevant evidence falls within India’s jurisdiction, so it held that Indian courts are better forum for this matter.
Therefore, in September 1986 Union of India initiated proceedings against Union Carbide in Bhopal District Court. The District court asked Union Carbide to deposit as sum of 350 Million as interim compensation. Union Carbide went into appeal in High Court & the court reduced the sum to 250 Million. Finally, Union Carbide reached Supreme Court.

The court ordered Union Carbide on February 14, 1989 to pay a heavy fee of US$ 470 million before March 31, 1989 in order not to waste any more time in writing comprehensive judgment. However, a reasoned order on the same was passed a few months later on May 4, 1989.
The Supreme Court ordered Union Carbide to pay US $470 million for all the damage that MIC gas spills from industrial premises.In the reasoned order, Justice Pathak said it was the court’s responsibility to provide urgent relief for the victims of the MIC leak and the court did not breach any virgin territory while doing so. Pathak ( j). Following the polluters pay concept, the payout amount agreed to be US$ 470 million.The court found that the counter offers ranged from 426 million dollars to 500 million dollars. Therefore, the mean of the counter ranges was estimated as US $470 million.
However, this $470 million payout was considerably less than the government’s promised amount, and numerous attorneys have found it to be an unfair reward. After examining the amount, it seems that each victim has been given a total less than INR 50,000.
Therefore, the legal validity of this settlement was challenged in Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India.In this case the petitioners argued that the reduction in criminal charges against Union Carbide was unconstitutional and that the amount of Compensation was excessive for the damage incurred by the accident. In this case judge Venkatchaliah gave the majority opinion on behalf of himself and K.N. Singh, N.D. JJ Ojha. Though CJ Mishra and Ahmadi J concurred. Made the opinion of a minority.The majority opinion claimed that the quashing of criminal proceedings against Union Carbide was unjustified and held that the criminal proceedings had to begin.On the point that whether such compensation is adequate or not the majority bench held that the said compensation is adequate, reasonable and fair and in case any deficiency arises in money for rehabilitation, such money shall be tendered by the Union & State government.

Aishwarya Says:

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