UCC can't be sued for Bhopal plant contamination: US court

UCC can't be sued for Bhopal plant contamination: US court

In a major blow to victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, a US court here has ruled that the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) cannot be sued for the ongoing contamination from the chemical plant.

Non-governmental organisation EarthRights International had filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of Bhopal residents, contending that the citizens’ land and water were being contaminated by waste from the plant.

EarthRights said that as per the court’s ruling, Union Carbide cannot be sued despite evidence that the construction of the plant was managed by an employee of the company.

The organisation expressed confidence that there is enough evidence against Union Carbide that will lead to a reversal of the “erroneous decision on appeal”.

The lawsuit had also added the state of Madhya Pradesh, which owns the site of the former Bhopal plant, as a defendant. In his 45-page ruling on July 30, US District Judge John Kennan said: “The only relief plaintiffs seek against Madhya Pradesh is an injunction directing them to cooperate in the cleaning up of the site ordered by this court against the UCC.

“Because I conclude that there is no basis to hold UCC liable for plaintiffs’ damage, there will be no court-ordered cleanup in this action, and thus, no basis for enjoining Madhya Pradesh. It is therefore appropriate to enter judgment in favour of the state (in) the amended complaint,” the judge said.

A poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide plant killed over 5,000 people on the night of December 2-3, 1984. EarthRights had said that the UCC had “largely abandoned” the site, allowing toxic waste to seep into the local water supply.

It said the UCC was involved in the creation and disposal of toxic waste at the Bhopal plant, and the manager who oversaw the construction of the plant confirmed that he worked for the company, not for the Indian subsidiary that officially operated the plant.

Keenan, however, ignored this evidence and ruled that the UCC was not sufficiently involved in the acts at the plant and that the project manager actually worked for the subsidiary, EarthRights said in a statement.