Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Karmchari Stationery Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan
Bhopal Group for Information and Action

March 25, 2003 Press Statement

At a press conference today, organizations of survivors of the December ’84 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal announced that they will appeal the recent dismissal of their class action suit in the USA within the next 20 days. Leaders of three survivors’ organizations and their supporters strongly condemned the March 20th decision of Judge Keenan of the Federal District Court in New York calling it a “glaring instance of juridical prejudice”. They expressed hope that the Appellate Court will remedy the “travesty of justice” caused by Judge Keenan’s decision.

The class action suit seeking damages for violations of international human rights law and environmental contamination was filed by the three survivors’ organizations and two support groups in November 1999.
Judge Keenan first dismissed the entire case in August 2000, on grounds that the February 1989 settlement discharged all liabilities of Union Carbide.

Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals which reversed Judge Keenan’s order and acknowledged that the damages to the health of the people caused by soil and water contamination, as well as the claims for clean-up and medical monitoring of 20,000 affected people, were outside the scope of the 1989 settlement. The Second Circuit reprimanded Judge Keenan for not properly considering these environmental claims and sent the case back to him for reconsideration of these matters.

In his recent decision, Judge Keenan dismissed the suit for a second time on grounds that too much time had passed between knowledge of the injury caused by the soil and water contamination and the filing of the
lawsuit in 1999. The decision also stated that the survivors’ organizations lacked standing to bring claims on behalf of their members, and finally, concluded that ordering clean-up and medical monitoring would be impossible to implement in Bhopal because of its remote location from the U.S. court.

Mr. Himanshu Rajan Sharma, New York based attorney for the plaintiffs organizations, who also addressed the press conference, criticized the decision on several legal grounds. According to him the decision erroneously applied a 3-year time limitation of New York law. "In fact, under New York law, the plaintiffs’ claims for damages as a result of environmental contamination cannot be time-barred because the injuries are continuous or ongoing in nature" he said. Also, according to Mr. Sharma, because Union Carbide actively withheld its knowledge of the
widespread environmental contamination of soil and water caused by its plant in Bhopal, the 3-year limitation does not apply. Actually, Judge Keenan’s decision recognizes this fact, but absolves Union Carbide by
suggesting that the corporation did not make false statements to the public, but only withheld information.

On the issue of US Court's supposed inability to enforce its judgment in a distant place such as Bhopal, Mr. Sharma pointed out that the United States Supreme Court has always held that a court has jurisdiction to order such relief from any defendant that is present before it, regardless of where the relief is implemented. In one American case,
U.S. courts ordered a defendant corporation to clean up contaminated land in Honduras. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, to which plaintiffs will appeal, has also previously recognized the authority of U.S. courts to order defendants Texaco Corporation to undertake clean-up in Ecuador.

Finally, Mr. Sharma added that the decision was legally unsupportable in its conclusion that the Bhopal survivors’ organizations lack standing to bring claims on behalf of their members. In class action lawsuit, it is well-established that organizations may function as representatives of the broader class.

The organizations announced that they will continue to raise the critical humanitarian issues of Bhopal both in legal fora as well as in the court of international public opinion.

Balakrishna Namdeo Rashida BiAbdul JabbarSatinath Sarangi PresidentPresidentConvenorMember
Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Bhopal Gas
Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari SanghBhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog
SangathanBhopal Group for Information and Action

Contact :

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