The Jabalpur Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed the central government to file details of the steps taken by the Task Force Committee constituted for removing toxic waste from the Bhopal gas accident site, a lawyer said on Wednesday. Additionally, on Tuesday the Division Bench of Justice K.K. Lahoti and Justice Sushma Shrivastava directed Dow Chemical to submit the document of its merger agreement with Union Carbide, so the court could examine its liability regarding the removal of toxic waste lying in the factory premises for the past 26 years.
The orders have been passed based on a petition filed by Alok Pratap Singh against the Union of India, Dow Chemicals, Union Carbide and others. Singh's counsel, K.N. Fakhruddin told IANS over the phone from Jabalpur: “It is an important directive but I cannot comment much in this regard.” Representing the central government, advocate Shekhar Sharma urged the court to direct Dow Chemical to submit documents of its assets, liabilities and business transactions in India to the central government by Jan 25,2011.
Tonnes of Methyl-Iso-Cyanate (MIC) gas spewed out of the now defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, killing over 3,000 people instantly. In the years that followed, people exposed to the gas kept dying. The toll is believed to be about 25,000 and the affected now account for over 5 lakh.
After what is considered as the world's worst industrial disaster, Union Carbide transferred its assets to US-based Dow Chemical. Though it paid compensation as directed by the court, about 350 tonnes of toxic waste is still lying at the factory waiting to be disposed of. The central government's stand is that the polluter or its assignee ought to remove the waste, while Dow Chemical has challenged the court's jurisdiction over it.
The question of jurisdiction would be decided once Dow Chemical submits the merger documents, the court observed.