By PRASENJIT BHATTACHARYA
NEW DELHI -- A New York federal court has dismissed all
claims by Indian plaintiffs against Union Carbide Corp. for any
environmental fallout of a gas leak which killed thousands of
people in the Indian city of Bhopal 28 years ago.
Giving his reasons for the order, the judge said that "it is
beyond dispute that Union Carbide India" - and not the US-based
parent - "generated and disposed of the waste which allegedly
polluted plaintiffs' drinking water."
The court added that since Union Carbide sold its stake in
the India unit, it's not liable for the clean-up.
Union Carbide Corp. sold its holding in the unit involved in
the leak - Union Carbide India Ltd. - in 1994. The unit was
then renamed Eveready Industries India Ltd.
Rachana Dhingra, an activist associated with the Bhopal
Group for Information and Action, which has spearheaded the
case in US courts, expressed disappointment at the dismissal of
the case, but added that they are determined to appeal.
"We will talk to our lawyer in the US soon and decide on
when to file the appeal in the US Court of Appeals."
The present case, one of many filed in India and the US since 1984, had
asked Union Carbide Corporation, now a part of Dow Chemical, to
pay damages to residents for not cleaning up the site of its
factory in Bhopal.
The pollution caused by the gas leak led to toxic chemicals
poisoning drinking water in the area, plaintiffs said while
filing the case in 2004.
A Manhattan district court struck down the claims, but an
appeals court sent the case back for another hearing in
The Bhopal incident - one of the world's worst industrial
disasters - occurred on the night of Dec. 3, 1984, when leakage
of methyl isocyanate at a Union Carbide pesticide factory
killed thousands and left many others to battle illnesses for
There's still no agreement on the number of people who died
on the night of the disaster or those who subsequently battled
lung injury, neurological and reproductive disorders and
respiratory difficulties - or died years later as a result of
India's federal government says 5,295 people died and 4,902
suffered permanent disability as a fallout of the disaster, but
activists insist the actual figures are much higher.
The first major judgment in the Bhopal issue came in 1989
when India's Supreme Court asked Union
Carbide to pay $470 million in damages to the victims.
The court has upheld the decision despite appeals by
victims' organizations for a higher payout.
However, the site cleanup issue has dragged on, with
governments in New Delhi and Madhya Pradesh - the state of
which Bhopal is the capital - unsure of how to get rid of the
Earlier this month, a group of federal ministers approved a
plan to disposal of the waste in Germany.
Activists in Bhopal and human rights groups around the world
have kept the issue of the tragedy alive, saying Dow Chemical
has failed to fulfill its moral obligations of paying adequate
compensation and cleaning up the site of the disaster.
But Dow Chemical has on several occasions said it bought
Union Carbide 16 years after the tragedy - and so it can't be
It has also said that since Union Carbide paid the $470
million damages in 1989, it's not responsible for any further
The Bhopal gas tragedy movement gathered new momentum when
Dow was announced as a key sponsor of the summer Olympics which
begins in London next month.
Protests have sought to embarrass the British government and
Dow Chemical, but both have stood by the sponsorship deal.
The Indian Olympic team, too, is
expected to participate in the games despite some talk earlier
of a possible boycott.
Dow Jones Newswires