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The Bhopal Gas Disaster

On the night of 2/3 December 1984, an escape of deadly methyl-icocyante (MIC) gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal took an immediate toll of 2660 innocent human lives and left tens of thousands of innocent citizens of Bhopal physically impaired or affected in various degrees. Over 5 lakh (500,000) people are estimated to have been affected by the gas leak. In the 16 years following the disaster, over 15,000 people died due to gas related causes. The disaster killed over 3000 animals and injured many more.  While the magnitude of human suffering has tended to eclipse the environmental damage and increased risk, in 1999, Greenpeace, on testing the soil, water and solid wastes in and around the now disused Union Carbide plant did found general contamination of the site and immediate surroundings with chemicals arising either from routine processes during the operation of the plant, spillages and accidents, or continued and ongoing release of chemicals from materials which remain dumped or stored on site.

The Bhopal gas disaster has been the focus of acrimonius litigation for the past 30 years. The settlement order made by the Supreme Court in February 1989 (and reviewed in 1991) were meant to dispose of all the gas disaster related claims. However, a number of issues were left unresolved at the time and litigation is still taking place in Indian courts and US courts.

S. Muralidhar (see photo below) was involved in the gas disaster related litigation for many years. This page includes some of the more recent petitions and affidavits drafted by S. Muralidhar as well as recent Indian and US judicial pronouncements. Please visit as well our publications page on torts where other Bhopal related publications can be found.


S. Muralidhar surrounded by a happy crowd following the Orders of the Supreme Court in 2004

Chronology

1969 Union Carbide India Limited’s (UCIL) plant at Bhopal designed by its holding company Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), U.S.A (which held 50.9% of UCIL’s equity) was built in 1969 as a formulation factory for UCC’s SEVIN brand of pesticides, produced by reacting Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) and alpha naphthol. Sevin kills pests by paralysing their nervous systems. At this time MIC was imported from the US in steel containers. Plant set up on land taken on long-term lease from State of Madhya Pradesh.

1975 UCC decided to "integrate backwards" and manufacture ingredients of Sevin at the Bhopal of UCIL. Although the then zonal regulations prohibited locating polluting activity in the vicinity of 2 kms from the railway station, UCC was able to persuade the authorities to grant it the necessary clearances.

1978 The alpha naphtol manufacturing unit was set up and a year later the MIC unit was set up at UCIL’s plant in Bhopal

December 25, 1981 Leak of Phosgene gas at the UCIL plant killed one worker.

January 9, 1982 25 workers were hospitalised as a result of another leak at the UCIL plant. Workers’ protests went unheeded...

March 1982 ... [ read the complete chronology... ]

 


Bhopal Documents

 

Jagarnath Sahu et al v. UCC and Madhya Pradesh State [Sahu II]

source: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit - Summary Order, 24 May 2016
date: 2016
full text PDF size: 133 [KB]
 

Jagarnath Sahu et al v. UCC and Madhya Pradesh State [Sahu II]

source: United States District Court, S.D. New York, No. 07 Civ. 2156 (JFK), Order of 30 July 2014
date: 2014
full text PDF size: 168 [KB]
 

Thirty Years after Bhopal - Articles published in The Statesman (December 2014)

source: The Statesman (December 2014)
date: 2014
full text PDF size: 217 [KB]
 

Janki Bai Sahu v Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson [Sahu I]

source: United States District Court, S.D. New York, 26 June 2012
date: 2012
full text PDF size: 200 [KB]
 

Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan v Union of India

source: Supreme Court of India, Writ Petition (C) No. 50 of 1998, Order of 9 August 2012
date: 2012
full text PDF size: 74 [KB]
 

CBI v Keshub Mahindra

source: Supreme Court of India, Curative Petition (CRL.) Nos 39-42 of 2010 in Criminal Appeal Nos 1672-1675 of 1996, Order of 11 May, 2011
date: 2011
full text PDF size: 33 [KB]
 

Bhopal: An unsettling settlement

source: The Hindu, 21 July 2010
date: 2010
full text PDF size: 30 [KB]
 

Bhopal: As the Law Develops

source: 45/34 Economic and Political Weekly 82 (2010)
date: 2010
full text PDF size: 519 [KB]
 

State of Madhya Pradesh v Warren Anderson and Others

source: Chief Judicial Magistrate Bhopal, Case No. 8460/1996, 7 June 2010
date: 2010
full text PDF size: 1200 [KB]
 

Union Carbide v Union of India - Orders August-October 2004

source: Supreme Court of India, 26.10.2004, 17.09.2004 and 17.08.2004
date: 2005
full text PDF size: 264 [KB]
 

Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila U.Sangat v Union of India

source: Supreme Court of India, Order of 25 April 2005
date: 2005
full text PDF size: 219 [KB]
 

Sajida Bano v Union Carbide & Warren Andersen

source: United States Court of Appeals - Second Circuit, 17 March 2004
date: 2004
full text PDF size: 296 [KB]
 

Directions to Welfare Commissioner to disburse existing funds

source: Supreme Court of India, Record of Proceedings, 19 July 2004
date: 2004
full text PDF size: 193 [KB]
 

Rejoinder affidavit: in appeal for disbursement of remaining amount of compensation paid by Union Carbide

source: Affidavit of Abdul Samad Khan and Others
date: 2004
full text PDF size: 188 [KB]
 

Writ petition for disbursement of remaining amount of compensation paid by Union Carbide

source: Petition drafted by S. Muralidhar
date: 2004
full text PDF size: 414 [KB]
 

Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster - Legal Issues

source: Report written by S. Muralidhar
date: 2004
full text PDF size: 494 [KB]
 

Communities at Risk: Industrial Risk and Indian Law

source: 39/41 Economic and Political Weekly (9 October 2004), p. 4521
date: 2004
full text PDF size: 66 [KB]
 

Keshub Mahindra v State of Madhya Pradesh

source: Supreme Court of India, Criminal Appeal Nos. 1672, 1673, 1674 and 1675 of 1996, Judgment of 13 September 1996
date: 1996
full text PDF size: 112 [KB]
 

Union Carbide Corporation v Union of India (review petition)

source: Supreme Court of India, Judgment of 3 October 1991 (review petition)
date: 1991
full text PDF size: 347 [KB]
 

Union Carbide Corporation v Union of India (statement of reasons)

source: Supreme Court of India, Judgment of 4 May 1989 (statement of reasons)
date: 1989
full text PDF size: 57 [KB]
 

Union Carbide Corporation v Union of India (settlement)

source: Supreme Court of India, Judgment of 14 February 1989
date: 1989
full text PDF size: 32 [KB]
 

Charan Lal Sahu v Union of India

source: Supreme Court of India, Writ Petition (C) No. 50 of 1998, Order of 9 August 2012
date: 1989
full text PDF size: 258 [KB]
 

The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985

source: Parliament of India
date: 1985
full text PDF size: 35 [KB]