Tata FAQ #14: Who is legally liable to clean up the site and why?

Dow is legally liable to clean up the site.
This is why! The polluter pays principle is the law in India, and intent or knowledge of contamination is not a prerequisite for being held accountable. In Indian law, the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rule of 1989 594(E), Section 3 Sub section (1) and Section 4(1) stipulates that the producers of the contaminated waste are responsible for decontamination. The polluter pays principle is also enshrined in the Environmental Protection Act, passed in India in 1986. Ruling in Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India (1996) 5 SCC.647, the Indian Supreme Court declared that, “. . . Once the activity carried on is hazardous or inherently dangerous, the person carrying on such activity is liable to make good the loss caused to any other person by his activity irrespective of the fact whether he took reasonable care while carrying on his activity. The rule is premised upon the very nature of the activity carried on.” Elaborating on the polluter pays principle in MC Mehta v. Union of India (1997) 2 SCC 353, the Supreme Court ruled that polluter pays principle as interpreted by the Court means that “the absolute liability for harm to the environment extends not only to compensate the victims of pollution but also of restoring the environment degradation.” Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India
In a June 28, 2004 official letter, the Indian Government has gone so far as to stress that the polluter pays principle applies in this specific case: “Pursuant to the ‘polluter pays’ principle recognized by both the United States and India, Union Carbide should bear all of the financial burden and cost for the purpose of environmental clean up and remediation.” The letter was issued in support of Bano v. Union Carbide.

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