India's top court rejects govt plea seeking more compensation for Bhopal gas disaster victims

More than half a million people were poisoned after methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide factory on December 3, 1984

By Reuters

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Survivors of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy stage a protest demanding proper additional compensation in Bhopal on December 30, 2022. — PTI
Survivors of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy stage a protest demanding proper additional compensation in Bhopal on December 30, 2022. — PTI

Published: Tue 14 Mar 2023, 1:59 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Mar 2023, 2:00 PM

India's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the government's plea seeking more compensation from Union Carbide Corporation for victims of a gas leak in the central Indian city of Bhopal that resulted in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

In the early hours of December 3, 1984, methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide factory, owned by the American company, in the state capital of Madhya Pradesh. More than half a million people were poisoned that night and the official death toll exceeded 5,000.


Following the disaster, the government sued Union Carbide and the company agreed to pay an out-of-court settlement of $470 million in damages in 1989.

The government approached the country's top court in 2010 seeking enhanced compensation for the victims.


Dow Chemical, which now owns Union Carbide, denied liability, saying it bought the company a decade after Union Carbide settled its liabilities with the Indian government.

"We believe this would not be the appropriate course of action or method to impose a greater liability on the UCC (Union Carbide) than it initially agreed to bear," the five-judge bench said in its judgement dismissing the petition.

"We are equally dissatisfied with the Union of India for being unable to furnish any rationale for raking up this issue more than two decades after the incident."

Built in 1969, the Union Carbide plant was seen as a symbol of industrialisation in India, generating thousands of jobs for the poor and, at the same time, manufacturing cheap pesticides for millions of farmers.

Thousands of survivors of the tragedy have said they, their children and grandchildren are still struggling with chronic health problems as a result of the leak and toxic waste left behind.



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