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Bhopal court asks Dow to explain Union Carbide's absence from trial

Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy may have failed to bring Warren Anderson, the prime accused in the fatal accident to justice, but they have managed to get Dow Chemicals to face trial in a Bhopal court.

bhopal Updated: Nov 11, 2014 15:04 IST
Ashutosh Shukla

Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy may have failed to bring Warren Anderson, the prime accused in the fatal accident to justice, but they have managed to get Dow Chemicals to face trial in a Bhopal court.

The US-based Dow Chemicals, which took over Union Carbide Corp (UCC) in 2001, has been summoned by the Bhopal district court to explain why it's not making Union Carbide appear in the criminal case on Wednesday (November 12).

The summons was issued by the court of chief judicial magistrate on a petition filed by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA), an organisation working for the welfare of the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy and other not-for-profit organisations fighting for the rights of poison gas victims.

The petition was filed seeking to force Dow Chemicals to admit its alleged criminal liability in the case since UCC is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the multinational chemical major. UCC is already declared an absconder in the case.

UCC faces criminal charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under section 304 of the IPC, in respect of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, and activist groups have been demanding that the charge is passed on to Dow Chemical as the owner of Union Carbide.

Dow was originally issued with summons in January 2005, but another wholly-owned subsidiary of the company, Dow Chemical International Private Limited (DCIPL), appealed for a stay on the summons and the Madhya Pradesh High Court granted the company a stay.

However, the stay was lifted by the high court on October 19, 2012, and an application was made by BGIA on January 13, 2013, at the CJM court to issue the summons directly to Dow's Michigan headquarters in the US.

"The summons indicates that the courts now clearly believe that Dow has a case to answer regarding UCC's refusal to answer the criminal charge," said Rachna Dhingra of BGIA said.

In its application, BGIA contended that Dow Chemicals was the owner of the erstwhile Union Carbide Corp. Dow Chemicals has consistently denied any responsibility for UCC's liabilities in Bhopal.