Criminal Litigation

The Indian Central Bureau on Investigation (CBI) initiated criminal proceedings in December 1987, which accused Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) Chairman Warren M. Anderson, seven managers of Union Carbide Indian Limited (UCIL) and three corporate entities -- UCC, Union Carbide Eastern and UCIL -- with “culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” the most serious offense charged. These criminal charges were quashed as part of the 1989 settlement, which resolved all civil claims as well.

However, in its October 1991 judgment upholding the settlement of the civil claims, the Supreme Court of India also held that the criminal case could proceed. Mr. Anderson and UCC were ordered to appear before the Indian criminal court in 1992, but did not because the court lacked criminal jurisdiction over them and the criminal charges had been quashed as part of the global settlement. The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Bhopal (CJM), declared them absconders and directed that a warrant be issued against Mr. Anderson to initiate proceedings for extradition.

In 1996, the Supreme Court of India reduced the charges against the Indian defendants to the lesser offense of causing death by a “rash or negligent act.” However, in 2002, the CJM refused to reduce the charges against Mr. Anderson and ordered the CBI to immediately seek his extradition. In May 2003, the GOI formally requested the U.S. extradite Mr. Anderson to India, but in June 2004, the U.S. denied the request on substantive grounds; essentially, that the GOI had not made a prima facie case for extradition.

In 2010, all the appropriate people from UCIL -- officers and those who actually ran the plant on a daily basis -- were convicted of negligence. The defendants appealed their convictions. The CJM denied attempts by the CBI to reinstate the original charges and the CBI has appealed. Decisions are pending on both appeals.

In response to the public outcry after the 2010 convictions, the CBI also renewed its request for Mr. Anderson's extradition. This request was still pending at the time of Mr. Anderson's death in September 2014.

Of note is the opinion of the Attorney-General of India regarding the extradition of Mr. Warren Anderson dated Aug.6, 2001. For further details on the opinion of the Attorney General of India: Extraditition of Mr. Warren Anderson, click here.

2010 Bhopal Court Decision; UCIL Executives Convicted of Negligence

By requirement of the Government of India (GOI), the Bhopal plant was detail designed, owned, operated and managed by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) and its employees. All the appropriate people from UCIL -- officers and those who actually ran the plant on a daily basis -- have appeared to face charges and were convicted of negligence. Union Carbide and its officials were not part of this case since the charges were divided long ago into a separate case. Furthermore, UCC and its officials are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian court since they did not have any involvement in the operation of the plant, which was owned and operated by UCIL.

*Please note: In 1994, UCC sold its entire stake in UCIL to Mcleod Russel India Limited, which renamed the company, Eveready Industries India, Limited (Eveready Industries). In 1998, the Madhya Pradesh State Government (MPSG), which owns and had been leasing the Bhopal plant site property to Eveready, cancelled the lease, took over the facility and assumed all accountability for the site, including the completion of any additional remediation.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Bhopal Criminal Litigation

1. Why hasn’t UCC appeared in the criminal proceedings in India, and why didn't former Chairman Warren Anderson appear before he died?
A. With regard to Bhopal litigation in India, all the key people from UCIL -- officers and those who actually ran the plant -- have appeared to face charges, which were reduced to a misdemeanor status. Neither UCC nor its officials are subject to the jurisdiction of the Indian court since they did not have any involvement in the operation of the plant. By requirement of the GOI, the plant was designed, owned, operated and managed by UCIL and its employees.

2. Isn't UCC in violation of Judge Keenan's 1986 order requiring the company to appear in Indian Courts?
A. No. The American litigation was civil litigation. Judge Keenan's order and Union Carbide's consent were with respect to civil jurisdiction in India -- not criminal jurisdiction. UCC did litigate and settle the civil claims arising from the Bhopal tragedy in the Indian civil courts. UCC is not subject to criminal jurisdiction in India and has not consented to it. UCC was not required to appear in any criminal matters in India.

As the U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York noted in its 2006 decision upholding Judge John Keenan's rulings in the Bano case, UCC did not violate his order to consent to the civil jurisdiction of the Indian courts, which was imposed as a condition to the dismissal of earlier litigation in the United States based upon the 1984 gas release on the grounds of forum non conveniens, by not appearing in the criminal case in India. Click here to view the complete opinion of the Court of Appeals.

3. Is it true that UCC is being tried "in absentia" in India?
A. No. The charges against UCC were severed from the remaining charges against UCIL and the Indian individuals associated with it, which were actively prosecuted. UCC was not tried "in absentia."

4. Isn't UCC trying to escape responsibility by claiming the plant was totally operated by UCIL and that UCC had no role in its operation?
A. No. UCC had no role whatsoever in the operation of the Bhopal plant. By requirement of the GOI, the plant was operated totally by employees of UCIL.

In 1987, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York upheld a lower court's ruling that "UCC’s participation was limited and its involvement in plant operations terminated long before the accident....the UOI [Union of India] controlled the terms of the agreements and precluded UCC from exercising any authority to 'detail design, erect and commission the plant', which was done independently over the period from 1972 to 1980 by UCIL process design engineers....The preliminary process design information furnished by UCC could not have been used to construct the plant. Construction required the detailed process design and engineering data prepared by hundreds of Indian engineers, process designers and sub-contractors..." Click here to view the Court of Appeals decision.

Subsequently, in 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York upheld Judge Keenan’s comprehensive decision of June 2012 that had unambiguously concluded that UCC is not liable for any environmental remediation or pollution-related claims made by residents near the Bhopal plant site in India; dismissed all claims against UCC and former Chairman Anderson; and ruled that UCC had no liability related to the plant site. Click here to view the complete 2013 court decision.