Union Carbide, ex-chief
to face trial in U.S.
The Hindu online 5.6.2000
BHOPAL, JUNE 4. As a result of the class action
suit and other legal actions in the United
States, the Union Carbide Corporation and its
former Chairman, Mr. Warren Anderson, have now
been forced to face the judicial process in the
U.S. courts which carries the potential of an
exemplary punishment to the main accused who were
responsible for the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984.
The New York-based Attorney representing the
survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster, Mr.
Himanshu Sharma, addressed a press conference
jointly with the Convener of the Bhopal Gas
Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan (BGPMUS), Mr. Abdul
Jabbar, and gave details of the class action
suit. He said the suit was filed on November 15,
1999 in the Southern District Court of New York
alleging that the Union Carbide and its former
Chairman committed grave violations of
international law and human rights arising from
their ``reckless and depraved indifference to
human life'' in perpetrating the disaster.
Mr. Sharma said the case was based on the Alien
Tort Claims Act, a U.S. law which permits
foreigners to 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 The statute was originally
enacted in 1789 to provide a remedy to foreign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, he said while
enumerating several grave breaches of
international laws that he said were committed by
the two defendants.
Mr. Sharma is a graduate from the Washington
College of Law with further studies in
international law in London and Paris. He has
been doing legal research on the Bhopal case in
association with the BGPMUS and the Bhopal Group
of Information and Action for the last four
He informed that among the defenses which the
Union Carbide had utilised so far were notices
from the Ministry of Tourism that the former
factory site was to be turned into a technology
park for tourists; statements of the Union
Minister, Ms. Maneka Gandhi, in Parliament that
the site was not polluted; and the Madhya Pradesh
Government's press release claiming that the site
of the factory was not contaminated.
Mr. Sharma further said the complaint against the
Union Carbide had been substantiated by
affidavits from nine international legal experts,
including the former Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court of India, Mr. P.N. Bhagwati. The former
Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University, Prof.
Upendra Baxi, had been a key person in inspiring
research and action and in the preparation of the
suit, he added.
He presented information on a separate law suit
filed by his firm on behalf of the shareholders
of Dow Chemicals challenging the impending merger
of Dow with the Union Carbide. The suit filed
against Dow and its 17 officials seeks damages
for causing potential financial damage to
Mr. Abdul Jabbar of BGPMUS said that for the
first time the U.S. courts and international
press had realised that the Union Carbide and Mr.
Anderson were indeed absconding from the criminal
case in India. Ms. Rashida Bi, who heads the
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari
Sangh, expressed satisfaction over the fact that
through this legal initiative Mr. Anderson, a
proclaimed offender for the last eight years, had
been forced to submit himself to the judicial
process in the U.S. courts.
Mr. Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for
Information and Action said that for the first
time the issue of ongoing toxic exposure from
contamination of soil and water around the
factory site here had been raised as another
separate ground for damages and relief of an
environmental clean up.