The Indian government filed a petition before the country’s Supreme Court today seeking more compensation from Dow Chemical Co. and two Indian companies for a 1984 toxic gas leak.
Attorney General of India G.E. Vahanvati sought an additional 57.8 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) to pay victims in the filing that argued a settlement 21 years ago was based on inaccurate estimates for the number of dead and injured.
An accident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant on Dec. 3, 1984, released methyl isocyanate gas into the streets of Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state in central India. Union Carbide estimated that 3,800 people were killed by the leak. Amnesty International, a human rights group, commissioned a study that showed 7,000 perished within days and another 15,000 died later from exposure to the gas.
Midland, Michigan-based Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide in 1999. Dow Chemical contends all liabilities were settled in the $470 million out-of-court settlement between Union Carbide and the Indian government in 1989.
Union Carbide and Dow Chemical have not received a copy of the petition yet, Tomm F. Sprick, the Houston-based director at Union Carbide Information Center said in an e-mail.
“Any effort to reopen the 1989 Bhopal settlement agreement, which twice has been reexamined, upheld and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of India in 1991 and most recently in 2007, is a misguided effort that will only demonstrate India’s willingness to put fundamental rules of justice at risk,” Sprick said.
The petition also seeks compensation from McLeod Russel India Ltd., the world’s biggest tea plantation company, and Eveready Industries India Ltd., which makes batteries and flashlights. McLeod Russel bought the local unit of Union Carbide in 1994 and renamed it Eveready Industries. The two companies were merged after buying Union Carbide India Ltd. They were spun off in 2004 to focus on tea plantations and battery manufacturing separately.
Aditya Khaitan, managing director of McLeod Russel and a member of Eveready Industries’ board, could not be reached when called at his office after hours.