US court says Carbide not responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy after-effects

In another blow to victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, a US court in New York ruled on Thursday said that Union Carbide Corp (UCC) cannot be sued for the continuing contamination from the chemical plant that leaked lethal gas.

Non-government organisation EarthRights International had filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on behalf of residents of Bhopal, saying the land and water of the citizens are being contaminated by continued leakage of waste from the plant.

EarthRights said that under the court's ruling, Union Carbide cannot be sued despite evidence that construction of the plant was managed by an employee of the company.

But it expressed confidence that there is enough evidence against Union Carbide to lead to a reversal of the "erroneous decision'' on appeal.

The lawsuit had added the state of Madhya Pradesh, which owns the site of the former Bhopal plant, as a co-defendant, and had also sought that Madhya Pradesh also cooperate in clean-up of the site.

US District Judge John Kennan said in his 45-page ruling, "The only relief plaintiffs seek against Madhya Pradesh is an injunction directing them to cooperate in clean-up of the site ordered by this Court against UCC.

"Because I conclude that there is no basis to hold UCC liable for plaintiffs' damage, there will be no court-ordered cleanup in this action, and thus, no basis for enjoining Madhya Pradesh. It is therefore appropriate to enter judgment in favour of the state (in) the amended complaint."

A poisonous gas leak from the Union Carbide plant killed over 5,000 people on the night of 2 December 1984, and EarthRights said UCC had "largely abandoned" the site, allowing toxic wastes to seep into the local water supply.

It said UCC was involved in the creation and disposal of toxic wastes at the Bhopal plant, and the manager who oversaw the construction of the plant confirmed that he worked for UCC, not for the Indian subsidiary that officially operated the plant.

Keenan, however, ignored this evidence, EarthRights said in a statement