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1 Jan 1989

Union Carbide/Dow lawsuit (re Bhopal, filed in India)

Status: CLOSED

Date lawsuit was filed
1 Jan 1989
Location of Filing: India
Location of Incident: India
Type of Litigation: Domestic


Union Carbide (part of Dow) United States of America Chemical: General


Snapshot: In 1999, a group of victims of the Bhopal disaster, a forty ton poisonous gas spill in India, filed suit against Union Carbide in US federal court seeking compensation for the incident and for the alleged ongoing environmental contamination. The US Court rejected the case on a juridictional basis. In India, the court found Union Carbide India Ltd. and seven executives of the company guilty of criminal negligence.

C русской версией описания этого дела можно ознакомиться здесь.

For proceedings in the US, see Union Carbide/Dow lawsuit (re Bhopal, filed in the US)

Proceedings in India

In December 1984, a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked over forty tons of the poisonous gas methyl isocyanate into the community surrounding the plant.  Indian officials estimate that the gas leak left nearly 3000 people dead and 50,000 people permanently disabled and that 15,000 people died subsequently from exposure to the poisonous gas.  (Unofficial estimates range up to 7000-8000 initial deaths, and 15,000-20,000 subsequent deaths.)

Some of the injured people of Bhopal attempted to litigate claims against Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical since 2001) in the US; these US lawsuits were dismissed in 1986 in favour of litigating the claims through the Indian legal system.

In 1989 the Indian Supreme Court approved a settlement of the civil claims against Union Carbide for $470 million.  Until recently approximately $330 million of the settlement amount had yet to be disbursed to the Bhopal victims and their survivors.  In July of 2004, the Indian Supreme Court directed that the balance of the settlement fund be disbursed among all of the Bhopal claimants. In 2010, the victims and the government filed a "curative petition" with the Supreme Court of India asking to re-open the settlement, due to evidence of the very significantly greater number of victims and severity of harms than was contemplated at the time of the original settlement.

In addition to the US litigation, a criminal lawsuit against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson, its former CEO, has been ongoing in the Indian legal system since 1989.  In June 2010 a court in India handed down a verdict in the case.  It found Union Carbide India Ltd. and seven executives of the company guilty of criminal negligence.  The company was required to pay a fine of 500,000 rupees ($10,870) and the individuals were each sentenced to two years in prison and fined 100,000 rupees ($2175) a piece.  On 2 August 2010, the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a harsher punishment for the accused in this case.  This petition sought to reinstate charges of culpable homicide against the accused; a September 1996 order had reduced the charges from culpable homicide to criminal negligence.  In May 2011, the Supreme Court rejected this petition and declined to re-open the case to reinstate the harsher charges.

- "Bhopal gas tragedy victims call for immediate steps to check groundwater contamination", International Business Times, 14 June 2018

- "India's Supreme Court rejects harsher Bhopal charges", BBC News, 11 May 2011

"CBI files curative petition in Bhopal gas tragedy case", J. Venkatesan, Hindu, 3 Aug 2010

- "Indian court convicts 7 in Bhopal gas disaster", Prakash Hatvalne, Seattle Times, 7 Jun 2010
- “Indian Judge Orders Dow to Explain Shielding of Subsidiary in Bhopal Criminal Case”, Boston Common Asset Management [socially responsible investment firm], 12 Jan 2005

Union Carbide: Union Carbide Bhopal Information Center

- Amnesty International: [PDF] “Clouds of Injustice: Bhopal Disaster 20 Years On”, 29 Nov 2004
- “Bhopal Gas Tragedy Lives On, 20 Years Later”, Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, 04 May 2004

- International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal: Document Library [contains links to certain US and Indian legal documents]

- [PDF] State of Madhya Pradesh through CBI vs. Warren Anderson, et al. - Judgment, Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Bhopal, 7 June 2010

Company Responses

Dow Chemical

No Response