TATA’S REPORTED offer to clean up the Union Carbide premises of toxic waste on behalf of Dow Chemicals may not be legally tenable because pollution being an offence, liability is fixed on the polluter alone, say legal experts.
Naman Nagrath, who had moved the PIL in the MP High Court seeking direction to the Union and the State Government for clean-up of Union Carbide plant, said the Tata’s offer was not legally sustainable.
He also told Hindustan Times the matter was sub-judice and there could be no out-of-court settlement on cleanup of the plant unless approved by the court.
Even if any settlement was worked out among Tata, Dow Chemicals and the Government of India over the issue, it would have to be presented before the court for ratification, he said.
Significantly, it was in the course of hearing of the PIL that the Union Chemical & Fertilisers Ministry had submitted in the High Court that Dow Chemicals, the present owner of Union Carbide, should be asked to pay up Rs 100 crore for cleanup of the Carbide plant.
Meanwhile, NGOs working among survivors of gas victims are also up in arms against the Tata’s reported offer. Co-convener of Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahyog Samiti (BGPSSS) N D Jaiprakash, who along with convener of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangthan (BGPMUS) Abdul Jabbar, had moved an application in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Bhopal to make Dow Chemicals a party in the criminal proceedings against Union Carbide and its erstwhile officials for the gas disaster, said it was not a matter of funds alone.
Liability had to be fixed for leaving behind stockpile of toxic waste that had contaminated soil and water in areas adjacent to the Union Carbide plant, they pointed out.
Abdul Jabbar added it was not clear whether the Tatas had made the offer on their own or they were doing it under an agreement with Dow Chemicals.
“If the Tatas intend to get Dow Chemicals rid of the liability, it clearly implies that Dow is aware of its liability but does not want to accept it,” he said.
Rachna Dhingara of the Bhopal Group for Information & Action asked the Tatas to clean up their own backyard before bothering to clean up the Carbide plant.
Expressing apprehension that Tatas might have plans to help Dow spread its network in India, she said her group along with other allied NGOs would give a call for the boycott of Tata products, if the company goes ahead with the plan to help Dow Chemicals steer clear of its liability for clean up of the Union Carbide plant.
All three NGOs also expressed their resolve to challenge any such move in the court if the matter went any further.