(Should a US company be legally liable in US courts for environmental consequences
of its operations abroad?)
1984: a year that had already acquired an ominous repute in the literary world thanks
to the novel "1984" by George Orwell. 1984 is a dark tale of a futuristic world where
Big Brother (the face of the totalitarian government) watches every action of the
general public for any deviance from the expected norms.
December 3, 1984: the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in the dark of the night, past midnight
methyl isocyanate gas leaks from a tank at the Union Carbide of India Limited (UCIL)
plant in Bhopal, India. Based on the reports from the state government of Madhya
Pradesh (Bhopal is the state capital of Madhya Pradesh), nearly three thousand eight
hundred people die and thousands more are impaired permanently or partially due to
exposure to the toxic gas.
According to victims advocacy groups, close to 10,000 people succumbed to their injuries
at the end of the first month following the exposure. They also estimate that around
538,000 people were afflicted with some kind of debilitating ailment. There were
reports of pregnant women being affected and the children born to them since then
have genetic and physical abnormalities. One representative summed up the existence
of the suffering survivors with the sombre words "the only cure for their suffering
Warren Anderson, the chairman of Union Carbide and his company became involved in
a lengthy and litigious trial in American courts before the US judge ruled that UCIL,
a subsidiary of Union Carbide, was an Indian company and subject to Indian laws and
transferred the litigation to India.