FACTSHEET-1 Key legal cases on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and its aftermath

Key legal cases on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and its aftermath

A. Settlement: Relating to compensation for victims of gas leak

December 1984: Days after gas leak first petitions filed in US federal courts on behalf of victims. 

March 1985: Indian Parliament passes Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act authorizing government to solely represent Indian plaintiffs in Indian and elsewhere in connection with tragedy. Union of India joins petition along with victims against Union Carbide in April.

June 1985: Individual petitions joined and listed before Justice John Keenan of Southern District Court of New York.

May 1986: Justice Keenan dismisses petition and orders Union Carbide to submit to jurisdiction of Indian courts. 

March 1989: India’s Supreme Court (SC) directs UCC and government to settle the case of compensation at US$ 470 million after hearing appeals from the High Court ordering interim compensation of Rs 250 crore. Settlement terminates all civil and criminal proceedings. Settlement is silent on the issue of environmental damages. 

March 1991: India’s Supreme Court hearing a review petition on the 1989 settlement refuses to reopen the issue of compensation but reinstates criminal proceedings set aside by 1989 judgment. Government of India asked to make good any deficiency in settlement fund if needed. Court recognizing potential long term health hazards of gas leak orders establishment of a specialized hospital funded by Union Carbide and its affiliates. 

November 2001: US Federal Court of Appeals directs Justice Keenan to try cases for recovery environmental damage unrelated to Bhopal gas disaster. Also orders Judge Keenan to hear additional environmental claims against Union Carbide and its former CEO William Anderson.

April 2007: A divisional bench of India’s Supreme Court once again rejects appeals asking for reopening the debate over adequacy of settlement fund.