Bhopal gas: Court issues summons to Dow Chemical

Bhopal, July 23 : Leaders of the five organizations of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal on Tuesday welcomed the decision of the district court to summon Dow Chemical, USA in the ongoing criminal case on the world's worst industrial disaster in December 1984.

The organizations said the decision is a significant step towards establishing the criminal liability of Union Carbide, USA for the tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands injured due to leak of poisonous gases.

"Union Carbide, USA has been absconding from charges of manslaughter and other serious offences for the last 21 years. Today's decision is the beginning of the end of their running away," said Rachna Dhingra, whose organization, the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, had moved the application for summoning Dow Chemical in February 2004.

Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha expressed hope that an order against Dow Chemical will be more effective than any order against Union Carbide in the last 21 years.

"While Carbide does not do business in India, Dow Chemical does through its many Indian subsidiaries. It can not afford to disregard the orders of a District Court as Union Carbide has been doing all these years," he said.

According to Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, the summons against Dow Chemical would have been issued eight years back when it was first ordered by the Bhopal District Court on Jan 6, 2005.

However, the State High Court had stayed the implementation of that order and the stay was vacated only in October 2012.

Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said that the summons against Dow Chemical will be served at their Midland, Michigan head quarters through the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. She expects the process to take less than three months.

Safreen Khan a founder member of Children against Dow Carbide was hopeful that representatives of Union Carbide, USA would soon be made to appear in the criminal case that has moved nowhere all these years.

"Dow Chemical's days of sheltering a fugitive from justice are over" she said, " hopefully we will have Union Carbide's Secretary in the docks here before too long," said Khan.

On the intervening night of Dec 2/3, 1984, the inhabitants of the city of Bhopal became victims of the world's worst industrial disaster. 40 tonnes of methyl iscocyanate (MIC - a highly volatile toxic chemical) stored at the pesticide plant - owned by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), a subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), USA - was contaminated with water and other impurities.

As a result, a mixture of deadly gases escaped from the factory killing several thousands of people and inflicting grievous injuries on at least 500,000 others.

--IBNS (Posted on 23-07-2013)

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