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India: Dow Chemical a no-show in court hearing over Bhopal disaster

US chemical giant Dow has dodged justice again today by failing to comply with an Indian court summons over the catastrophic 1984 gas leak in Bhopal which left thousands dead and many more with chronic and debilitating illnesses, Amnesty International said. 

 

“The Dow Chemical Company is once again thumbing its nose at the tens of thousands of victims and survivors of India’s worst industrial disaster. Sadly, this appalling lack of responsibility is what we’ve come to expect after years of Dow’s denials,” said Shailesh Rai, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India.

 

“The governments of India and the USA must do more to ensure that Dow complies with orders by the Indian courts.”

 

For 13 years, Dow has denied that it has any responsibility towards the victims and survivors of Bhopal. In a letter to Amnesty International earlier this year, a Dow official stated that efforts to involve the corporation in Indian court proceedings were “without merit” and tried to distance Dow from its wholly owned subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). 

 

In 2001, Dow acquired UCC, the US-based multinational that was majority owner of the company that operated the Bhopal plant at the time of the leak. UCC has also repeatedly ignored orders to appear before the Indian courts to answer criminal charges concerning the disaster. 

 

The summons – the third issued to Dow, on 4 August this year – made it clear that, as UCC’s sole owner, Dow has a responsibility to ensure UCC faces these claims. The court has ordered another summons notice to be issued on 22 November and the hearing has been rescheduled for 14 March 2015. 

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. An estimated 22,000 people died following the leak and more than 570,000 were exposed to damaging levels of toxic gas. Many people in Bhopal still suffer from serious health problems. Pollution from the abandoned site has contaminated the local water supply and poses an ongoing threat to the health of surrounding communities. 

Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty will next month visit Bhopal for the 30th anniversary of the disaster on 2-3 December, to show solidarity with the efforts of survivors and activists who have fought against injustice for three decades.