The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has led the Bhopal Courts to proceed with a further application for serving notice on Dow to appear under the (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) MLAT on criminal matters. This is the first occasion on which notice will have been served since the merger with DuPont and the subsequent split into three ‘new’ companies and, as such, marks an extremely important legal milestone. Dow is required to attend court in Bhopal on November 13.
The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, signed by both the US and India in 2005, is designed to enhance the ability of the two countries to pursue their common objective of law enforcement by putting in place a legal mechanism enabling them to provide each other with assistance in connection to the investigation, prosecution, prevention and suppression of crime.
Assistance given under the conditions of the treaty includes: taking the testimony or statements of persons; providing documents, records and items of evidence; locating or identifying persons or items; serving documents, transferring persons in custody for testimony or other purposes; executing requests for searches and seizures, assistance in proceedings related to seizure and forfeiture of asset, restitution, collection of fines.
Dow subsidiary, the Union carbide Corporation, remains wanted in India on the criminal charge of ‘culpable homicide not amounting to murder’, for its part in the Bhopal Disaster, but Union Carbide has never bothered to answer the charge, nor attend court, and is a ‘proclaimed absconder’ in the eyes of the Indian judicial system.
Securities and Exchange Commission filings for the new Dow reveal that it expects to assume Union carbide’s liabilities, but Bhopal is not mentioned and only asbestos-related liabilities (in the US) are cited as being of material concern.
Hundreds of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster sat on a day long Dharna (sit-in), on July 25th, demanding that the state government stop misleading the Supreme Court in the matter of additional compensation by downplaying the damage caused by the disaster. Led jointly by four local organizations, the survivors called upon the state government to correct the figures of deaths and extent of health damages caused by the disaster in the forthcoming Curative Petition. The curative petition which is designed to ‘cure the gross miscarriage of justice and perpetration of irremediable injustice being suffered by the victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy’ was due to be heard in April but a crisis in the court has caused the hearing to be postponed.
Speaking at the Dharna, Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmchari Sangh said: “In March 2011, the State government told the Supreme Court, in the criminal matter, that 15248 people in Bhopal died as a result of the disaster and yet it has taken no steps to correct the misleading figure of 5295 that it has presented in the Curative Petition for additional compensation.”
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action in her speech pointed out that while records of government hospitals meant for survivors of the gas disaster show that well over 80 % of the survivors continue to be sick after decades, the state government maintains in the Curative Petition that 93 % of the survivors got okay after one day’s hospitalization. “This when all scientific literature, including Union Carbide’s, says Methyl Isocyanate causes residual injuries despite prompt treatment.” she said.
Addressing the protestors, Nawab Khan. President of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha said that the state government’s attempt to mislead the Supreme Court is so blatant that even an ordinary person can detect the lies. “How can the figure of death caused by the disaster be 5295 when the State Government provides pension to 5000 women acknowledged to have been widowed by the gas disaster?” he asked the audience.
The protestors held placards demanding that the Minister of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation, fulfill his pre-election promise, sent on WhatsApp, of ensuring Rs. Five lakhs as compensation for each gas victim. The protestors also held up banner with the Minister’s promise to the organizations sent six days before the elections.