Union Carbides Pending Criminal Charges in Bhopal

A criminal case was filed against 12 defendants, including Union Carbide, alleging the crime of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder."54 As part of the Indian government's 1989 settlement, outstanding criminal liabilities against Union Carbide Corporation and other accused were quashed. However, India's Supreme Court reviewed this component of its order and reinstated criminal charges against all accused in 1991.55

50From The Hindu (March 22,2004) "Bhopal Tragedy: Payment Sought from Compensation Fund Balance."

51EIIL took exclusive possession of the land under lease from the government of Madhya Pradesh.

52These assets have since been reallocated towards construction of a hospital for Bhopal. However, this asset transfer has not obviated the potential liability of Union Carbide in the criminal case.

53See http://www.dow.com/environment/debate/d15.html.

54Some of the Indian defendants have had their charges reduced to lesser charges of criminal negligence in the intervening years. However, the charges against Union Carbide and former CEO Warren Anderson remain as culpable homicide.

55Paragraph 214 of Supreme Court judgment of October 3, 1991, in (1991) 4 SCC 584 Union Carbide Corporation and Ors versus Union of India and Ors: "The Court sets aside the quashing of criminal proceedings against UCC and others, and reinstates the proceedings."

Indian courts are based on a British system of jurisprudence, which means that penalties of restitution can be levied in criminal cases. In the case of the crimes that Union Carbide is charged with, there is no upper limit for the penalty amount. According to Indian lawyer S. Muralidhar, the penalty amount is left to the discretion of the Court, and usually depends upon the magnitude of the crime and the ability of the criminal to pay.

In 1992, the Chief Judicial Magistrate ordered that Union Carbide Corporation be proclaimed an absconder for repeatedly failing to honor summons to face trial. Thus, in India, Union Carbide is considered a criminal fugitive.

Dow continues to have a presence in India in the form of several subsidiaries and at least two joint ventures with assets and businesses (see above). The continuing presence of these assets, regardless of their size, may give the Indian courts some leverage to attempt to enforce the cooperation of the parent corporation Dow Chemical in producing its subsidiary Union Carbide in court.56

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