By Pervez Bari
BHOPAL – At long last after 18 years wait Dow Chemical Company appeared in Bhopal District court for the first time on Tuesday in response to the seventh summons issued by the court in response to an application moved by an NGO working with the 1984 gas tragedy victims.
However, the company representatives did not presented themselves physically but were represented in the court by company’s legal representative Ami Wilsom and senior advocate Ravindra Shrivastava. They sought more time to study the case and find out if a Bhopal court has the jurisdiction to issue a summons to the company and proceed further in the case.
The application contended that Dow had acquired UCC despite knowing that it was declared an “absconder” by a Bhopal court in 1992 after the company didn’t submit to the court for trial. In 2005, the trial court issued the first summons to Dow Chemical. After that, six more summonses were issued. A one-page memo on behalf of the company was filed, saying that the Bhopal court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the corporation as it’s based in the US. After hearing both sides, the judge reserved his judgment for October 6, 2023.
‘Sheltering a fugitive’
Meanwhile, it may be mentioned here that in February 2004, Bhopal Group for Information & Action had sought the presence of United States chemical giant Dow Chemicals in the trial court to explain why it was “sheltering a fugitive”, meaning the Union Carbide Corporation, which Dow took over in 2001. While Gas victims have said that the Madhya Pradesh High Court has already rejected jurisdiction issues in 2004.
“For the first time in the last 36 years, a foreign accused appeared in court to respond to criminal charges of the Bhopal Gas Disaster. This has been possible due to the support extended by 12 members of the US Congress in response to requests by our supporters in the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal”, said Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.
Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha said: “For the worst industrial disaster in history the CBI in 1987 charged Union Carbide with culpable homicide punishable by imprisonment of 10 years and fines. In February 1992 Union Carbide was declared a fugitive from justice by the Bhopal District Court. By taking over Union Carbide in 2001, Dow Chemical committed a crime punishable by 3 years of prison and fines under Section 212 of the IPC.
“We know that the CBI affirms that as the “successor-in-interest” of Union Carbide, Dow Chemical is answerable to charges pending against Killer Carbide in the Bhopal District court. In fact the corporation appearing in the Bhopal Court tomorrow is also answerable to charges under Section 107 of the IPC for Abetment as they facilitated the sales of Union Carbide’s products in India even after the 1992 CJM’s order of attachment of its properties in India”, said Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha.
Meanwhile, it may be pointed out here that the Supreme Court on March 14 this year had dismissed a curative petition filed by the Union Government seeking additional funds from Union Carbide Corporations’ successor firm viz. Dow Chemical for extending higher compensation to the gas victims, which led to the deaths of 3,000 people and caused significant environmental damage.