SIFY.COM dnesday, 05 April , 2006, 08:39
Washington: US Democrat Frank Pallone and 10 other Congress lawmakers have filed an amicus brief in a US Court of Appeals on behalf of the more than 20,000 victims of the Union Carbide chemical disaster at Bhopal in 1984.
Pallone, the founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, initiated the 29-page brief in response to a New York district court’s decision that did not take into account India’s submission of a formal statement seeking relief.
The lawmakers held that the court was wrong in refusing to consider the request and said that disregard of India’s submission is improper and interferes with America’s public policy and foreign relations with the country.
“The Bhopal victims have repeatedly tried their cases in the US court system, but were subjected to unfair treatment and corporate favouritism. As elected officials, we have a responsibility to call on the courts to recognise the rights of India and the residents of Bhopal,” Pallone said in a statement.
The lawmakers also pointed out the environmental ramifications of the trial.
“It is… a mandate of the Congress to ensure that US corporations and companies investing abroad or undertaking activities overseas comply with local, national and international laws regarding the environment and do not engage in environmental abuses,” they said in the amicus brief.
“[The Members of Congress] request that this court… accord due consideration to the strong legal and public policy interests of the US in affording redress to victims of environmental pollution and harm caused by American corporations,” they added.
Pallone’s office noted that victims have filed numerous lawsuits against the company over the past two decades in an attempt to address health concerns and the tremendous environmental injustices that resulted from the disaster, but their claims have remained unanswered so far.
In 1999, survivors filed a class action lawsuit against Union Carbide and its officials in the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. The lawsuit was dismissed and later reinstated by the New York Federal Appeals court in November 2001 and dismissed again in March 2003.
“Due in part to a prior amicus brief filed by Pallone and eight of his Congressional colleagues in 2003, an appeal of this decision was upheld and the case will now be heard by a superior court,” Pallone’s office said in a statement.
“In that decision, the appeals court held that the district court should revisit the prior dismissal of claims for cleanup of the Bhopal plant site if the Indian government submitted a formal request asking for such relief,” it said.
“It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
The ten members joining Pallone on the amicus brief were Raul M Grijalva, Maurice Hinchey, Sherrod Brown, Joseph Crowley, Janice Schakowsky, Donald Payne, Major Owens, Jim McDermott, Dennis Kucinich and Edward Markey.