Indian Supreme Court hears Bhopal curative petition

An important hearing, which could reopen the case against Union Carbide Corporation and possibly even reopen the controversial and inadequate 1989 settlement, is taking place in India’s apex court.

In a series of daily dispatches, Shalini Sharma, a PhD student at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, guides us through the proceedings, summarising the arguments and commenting on the issues before the court.

These important proceedings were born out of the public fury at the June 2010 verdicts in the Union Carbide Gas Disaster case. Only the Indian accused were convicted, each receiving a trivial fine and lenient jail sentences deferred as they were released on bail pending an appeal. The amount of the fines paid by these defendants and Union Carbide India LImited would, if divided equally among the surviving victims of the disaster have given each one barely enough for a cup of tea.

The US parent Union Carbide Corporation whose reckless cost cutting and drive for profit at any cost led directly to the disaster was not in court. Since 1992 it had been refusing to obey the summonses ordering it to appear. It claimed the Indian court had no jurisdiction.

The huge public outcry put the government on the spot. It soon became clear that the US administration had been trying to pressure its Indian counterpart to let Dow Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide and inheritor of its liabilities, off the hook.

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