New Delhi (dpa) – Thirty years after deadly gas leaked from a Union Carbide Corporation factory in Bhopal killing thousands, legal battles for just compensation for the victims goes on.
Survivors say the US$470 million payment agreed to between the Indian government and Union Carbide Corporation in 1989 was inadequate and it was based on a death toll of 3,000.
According to the agreement, each survivor was to receive 25,000 rupees (about US$500), for a lifetime of injuries and in return Union Carbide employees would not be held liable.
“The 1989 settlement was deeply insulting,” said Satinath Sarangi of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, which is spearheading the legal battle of the victims.
The Indian government in 2010 filed a curative petition before the Supreme Court seeking boosted compensation of 78 billion rupees – about US$1.7 billion at the time – from Union Carbide for the victims and for cleaning up the factory site.
The Indian government also recently agreed to increase the official toll of dead and injured as demanded by victims’ groups and activists.
In 1991, India’s Supreme Court ruled that the compensation settlement of 1989 did not exclude criminal charges against the company or civil or criminal liabilities arising out of ground contamination that occurred separately from the 1984 accident.
Criminal charges were then reinstated and Union Carbide remains under trial in the chief judicial magistrate’s court of Bhopal.
The then chairman of Carbide Warren Anderson, a respondent in the case, died this year in the United States.
The High Court of Madhya Pradesh state is also hearing a public interest litigation seeking damages of US$3.3 billion for environmental pollution at the abandoned factory and medical care for gas survivors.
The Dow Chemical Company, which acquired Union Carbide Corporation in 2001, has denied liability for the Bhopal plant’s operation.
The plant was owned and operated by Union Carbide India Ltd, an Indian company, with shared stock ownership by Union Carbide Corporation, the Indian government, and private investors.
Union Carbide sold its shares in UCIL in 1994, seven years before it was bought by Dow.