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 plant.
Non-governmental organisation EarthRights International had filed the lawsuit in the southern district of New York on behalf of residents of Bhopal saying that the land and water of the citizens are being contaminated by waste from the chemical plant.
EarthRights said that as per the court’s ruling, UCC cannot be sued despite evidence that construction of the plant was managed by an employee of the company. EarthRights 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 Madhya Pradesh government, which owns the site of the plant, as a defendant and had sought that Madhya Pradesh also cooperate in clean-up of the site. US district judge John Kennan said in his 45-page ruling on July 30 that, ‘‘The only relief plaintiffs seek against Madhya Pradesh is an injunction directing them to cooperate in clean-up of the site ordered by this court against 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 in his ruling.
A poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide plant killed over 5,000 people and EarthRights said UCC had ‘‘largely abandoned’’ the site, allowing toxic wastes to seep into the local water supply.
It said UCC was involved in creation and disposal of toxic wastes at the Bhopal plant, and the manager who oversaw the construction of the plant confirmed that he worked for UCC, not for the Indian arm that officially operated the plant.
Keenan, however, ignored this evidence and ruled that 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.