Carbide case verdict may take six years
The organizations of the survivors of the 1984 gas disaster and other plaintiffs who have filed a class action suit against Union Carbide and its former chairman Warren Anderson in the US federal court in New York, today briefed the media persons on the progress of the case and other recent developments.
Himanshu Rajan Sharma, the New York-based attorney representing the survivors of Bhopal, who was also present at the press conference said that the suit was filed on November 15, 1999 in the southern district of New York alleging that Union Carbide and its former chairman had committed grave violations of international law and human rights arising from their "reckless and depraved indifference to human life" in perpetrating the disaster.
Sharma further said that the case was based on the Alien Tort Claims Act (ACTA), a US law under which even foreigners can bring claims for violations of international law. The statute was originally enacted in 1789 to provide a remedy to foreign citizens injured by pirates, slave traders and other international outlaws.
On an earlier occasion, the federal court had held that the ATCA can be used against a US company if it engages in conduct that amounts to gross violations of human rights.
Recounting the achievements of the legal action in the US, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan convenor, Abdul Jabbar, stated that for the first time the US courts and international press has had to realize that Union Carbide and Anderson were proclaimed offenders absconding from India and through this legal initiative Anderson, had to submit himself to the judicial process albeit in the US courts.
Sharma, however, clarified that the criminal sui filed in the federal court demanding damages both compensatory and punitive might take another six to 10 years before it was finally disposed of.
"But, it will still be less than the time consumed by Indian courts to dispose such cases", he said.
He further stated that the complaint against Union Carbide has been substantiated by affidavits from nine international legal experts including former chief justice of India Mr P N Bhagwati.
He also informed about a separate law suit filed by his firm on behalf of shareholders of Dow Chemicals challenging the impending merger of Dow with Union Carbide. The suit filed against Dow and its 17 officials seeks damages for causing potential financial damage to shareholdersas they did not take on Union Carbides financial liabilities on the Bhopal case into consideration while deciding on the merger. As per established US corporate law the criminal liabilities of Union Carbide will be passed on to Dow in the event of a successful merger.
Representatives of survivors organizations announced that they are launching a nationwide campaign against Dow Chemicals Indian subsidiaries located at Mumbai and Chennai.