Corporate Consequences


(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 is death".


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.