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.
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
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
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,
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.
Rashida BiAbdul JabbarSatinath Sarangi PresidentPresidentConvenorMember
1. A 547, Housing
Board Colony, Aishbag, Bhopal Tel : 2757619