Bhopal Gas Tragedy
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy was a deadly disaster that occurred in Bhopal, India, killing thousands and injuring thousands more for life. This is regarded as one of the most heinous and deadly industrial disasters.
On a cold winter night in 1984, the lethal Methyl isocyanate Gas (MIC) leaked from the Union Carbide factory, resulting in the world's worst industrial disaster. In the 1970s, the Indian government encouraged foreign investment in domestic industries, and Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) was asked to build a plant in Bhopal to manufacture Sevin, a pesticide widely used throughout Asia. The Indian government-owned a 22 percent stake in the company's subsidiary Union Carbide India Ltd.
On December 2, 1984, a small MIC gas leak was discovered. A plume of MIC gas was present in the air on the morning of December 3, 1984, resulting in the deaths of thousands of people. According to estimates, 3,800 people died immediately, the majority of whom lived in poor slums adjacent to the plant. The estimated number of deaths in the first few days was more than 10,000, with 15,000 – 20,000 premature deaths reported over the next two decades. Following the incident, UCC attempted to absolve itself of responsibility by shifting the blame to UCIL (Union Carbide India Ltd), claiming that the plant was fully built and operated by the Indian subsidiary, UCIL.
The Legal Fight:
In February 1985, the Indian Government filed a case in the United States Court for a $3.3 billion claim against the Union Carbide Corporation. However, by 1986, all of these cases in the US District Court had been transferred to India on the grounds of forum non convenience. It means that the case should be moved to a more convenient location so that the trial can proceed as smoothly as possible. Meanwhile, in March 1985, the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act was passed, empowering the Central Government to become the sole representative of all victims in all types of litigations, ensuring that the interests of the disaster's victims are fully protected and compensation claims are pursued expeditiously.
In 1987, cases were filed in the Bhopal District Court, and the Union Carbide Corporation was ordered to pay 350 crores in interim compensation. However, because the interim order could not be decreed, the UCC refused to pay the amount. This interim compensation amount was later reduced to 250 crores by the High Court. Both the Union of India and the UCC sought special leave to appeal this High Court's decision.
The issue of absolute liability is one of the main issues raised by the Bhopal Gas tragedy. In the case of M.C Mehta v Union of India, this issue was thoroughly discussed. The principle of absolute liability states that when an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous industry and any harm results as a result of such activity, the enterprise is absolutely liable to compensate for such harm, and it should not be an answer to the enterprise to say that it had taken all reasonable care and that the harm occurred without any negligence on its part. The principle of safe design in such industries would be to guard against more than just the most predictable, routine types of accidents.
As a result, we can easily distinguish between the Strict Liability and Absolute Liability principles. Strict liability applies to all things that exist in a location, but absolute liability only applies to things that cause harm or damages, and it must be in relation to hazardous and toxic substances. As a result, the court has narrowed the principle of strict liability.
JUDFEMENT OF THE CASE:
All of these arguments were rejected, and all of the accused were found guilty and sentenced to prison as well as fines. These orders, however, could not be enforced because some of the accused did not appear in court. Mr. Warren Anderson, who was the chairman of the UCC at the time of the disaster, is still at large, and all requests for his extradition have been denied by the US government.
Following the passage of this act, the principle of absolute liability was given greater emphasis, and the Indian judicial system took a positive step by adopting it. The Bhopal Gas Tragedy was an event whose aftereffects can still be seen in many new born children who were born with abnormalities, and it was critical to direct all industries established near the residential area to take all precautions and not play with people's precious lives.