Victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 and the organisations working for them are not shocked at the US district court's dismissal of an environmental damage lawsuit on Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and its former chairman Warren Anderson.
They said they were expecting it, with the London Olympics - in which the present owner of UCC, Dow Chemicals, is a sponsor - one month away and the fact that this was the fourth time that the US district judge in Manhattan, John F Keenan, was hearing the lawsuit after dismissing it three times on various grounds.
"This is a bit depressing but not shocking for us. We will again go into appeal with the second circuit court. On three earlier occasions since 1999, when the lawsuit was filed, judge Keenan had dismissed it and subsequently the second circuit court reinstated it," said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group of Information and Action, which has supported the lawsuit since the beginning.
However, she added according to the laws of the US, after reinstatement each time the case came back to judge Keenan's court because he was the one who originally heard the Bhopal gas tragedy criminal case, filed in 1985. "If we win for the fourth time, the case will be taken away from judge Keenan's court and will go in for a jury trial. We are hopeful of a positive decision there."
Jankibai Sahu, the main plaintiff in the case along with 17 other victims, said she was hopeful that the lawsuit would take a positive turn during the jury trial because they had enough evidence and documents to prove that the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal was designed, operated and supervised by UCC and Anderson, who was chairman when the tragedy took place. Also, the mother company designed the waste management system, which led to environment contamination.
Through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs have demanded a cleaning up of the (closed) factory site and its surroundings in Bhopal, property damages for the victims whose properties (soil and water around their homes) were contaminated and health monitoring of the victims impacted by the contamination of soil and water.
Abdul Jabbar, convener of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, asked, "How could UCC and Warren Anderson shirk their responsibility for the tragedy and the consequent environmental damages? They had 51.8% holding in Union Carbide India Ltd, which ran the plant here."
Inputs from M Poornima