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Bhopal disabled a step closer to justice

DNIS News Network -- The Chief Judicial Magistrate’s court in Bhopal, India, is set to decide whether it will force Dow Chemical to send former Union Carbide officials to India to stand trial for the 1984 gas leak that has killed and injured over 60,000 people.

Dow denies any further liability for the disaster, and considers the matter closed. However, the chief judicial magistrates court was advised at the beginning of the year that it could make a request for international judicial assistance from the US Department of Justice to ensure Dow—America’s largest chemicals producer—complies with any summons.

The Bhopal tragedy was the worst chemical accident in history. It killed at least 14,400 people and caused permanent disabilities for at least 50,000 others.

In 1989 Union Carbide, which owned the Bhopal plant, settled a civil suit brought by the Indian government and agreed to pay $470 million in damages for the 500,000 people exposed to the gas, an average of less than $500 to each victim.

The company maintained it had no “legal” responsibility since the plant was operated by Indian subsidiary, Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL). However, under Indian law Dow not only bought the assets, but also the liabilities of Union Carbide and can therefore be held to account.

A federal appeals court in New York in March this year reversed a lower court decision that absolved Dow of responsibility for cleaning up the site in Bhopal. Last month the Indian government submitted a letter to the court expressing its support for Dow to clean up the Bhopal site.