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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Justice Awaited For 38 Years

On January 10, a curative petition was filed by the Union of India versus the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), and American Chemical Corporation now owned by Dow Chemical Company, an American multinational chemical corporation, about the Bhopal Gas Disaster. The disaster occurred on December 3-4, 1984 and the victims have been agitating for compensation and medical treatment since then. The case wound itself through several courts, both in the USA and in India.

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On January 10, a curative petition was filed by the Union of India versus the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), and American Chemical Corporation now owned by Dow Chemical Company, an American multinational chemical corporation, about the Bhopal Gas Disaster. The disaster occurred on December 3-4, 1984 and the victims have been agitating for compensation and medical treatment since then. The case wound itself through several courts, both in the USA and in India. In 1985, Judge J.F. Keenan of a district court in New York held based on the doctrine of forum non-convenience that the forum to hear the cases for compensation was India and not the USA, although UCC was headquartered in the USA and all the evidence of standards of safety to be maintained at the gas plant in Bhopal was available in the USA at the UCC plant. 38 years later, the Supreme Court heard a curative petition asking for the reopening of the settlement between the Union of India and UCC.

However, neither UCC nor Dow acknowledges the criminal negligence that led to the death and destruction caused on that account and continues to oppose the reposing of the settlement tooth and nail. It is also worth recalling that the interim order was truly unique in that the district judge and the high court had both relied on the fact that it was now a matter of routine in the United Kingdom in suits for damages for personal injury to grant interim damages, and the interim order had a sound legal basis. In the Supreme Court, without notice to the victims, the Union of India, represented by the then Attorney General for India K. Parasaran, entered into a settlement dated February 14-15, 1989 with UCC. The parties agreed that all criminal proceedings would be dropped and a sum of 470 million dollars would be given to all victims in a ‘full and final’ settlement of all dues.

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Meanwhile, a petition filed by the late journalist Rajkumar Keswani (the only journalist who had warned a few months earlier, in a series of three articles, that there was a disaster waiting to happen at UCC Bhopal due to neglect of the plant) challenging the validity of the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 was pending at the Supreme Court and was yet to be decided when the settlement was signed. The challenge was to the power of the Union of India to supplant the victims and give it the authority to litigate on their behalf. It was by this authority that the settlement was signed by the then Attorney General on behalf of the victims. Medical records which were directed by the Supreme Court to be computerised have not yet been computerised. As a result, the true picture of the injured and dead is not before the court. Contempt proceedings have been initiated before the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which is still pending. Meanwhile, the victims question the categorisation of the nature of the injury suffered by them, as recorded in the order of the claims court. The end of the tragedy, which took place on December 3 and 4 in 1984, is nowhere in sight.

 

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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