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UCC, Dow to oppose govt`s petition for compensation hike

Last Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 - 22:44

Houston: Union Carbide Company (UCC) and
Dow Chemicals Company on Monday said that it will oppose in the Supreme
Court the curative petition filed by the Indian government
seeking enhancement of compensation from Rs 750 crore to Rs
7,700 crore for the victims of 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.

UCC and Dow Chemicals, which owns UCC since 2001,
issued separate statements and said that the government`s petition
will receive "vigorous" opposition and "strong objections"
respectively when the apex court would commence hearing to
examine the plea seeking additional damages from them.

"The company expects that the petition will receive
vigorous and compelling opposition when the petition is heard
by the Court", the UCC, which issued its statement from its
headquarter said after an apex court bench headed by Chief
Justice SH Kapadia issued notices to it and others.

The Dow Chemicals in a statement from its
headquarter Midland, Michigan, said "it will lodge strong
objections to the Union of India`s petition seeking to reopen
the 22-year-old legal settlement concerning the 1984 Bhopal
gas tragedy".

It said "the Government`s ill-advised action puts at
peril the image of India as a nation committed to promoting
and adhering to accepted legal principles and the rule of law,
with the inevitable result that confidence in investing in
India will be undermined".

Besides UCC and Dow Chemicals, the apex court also
issued notices McLeod Russel India having 50.9 per cent
share-holding of UCIL, and UCIL, which is currently known as
Eveready Industries Ltd, on a petition filed by the Centre
seeking payment of additional damages from them.

UCC said that the release of the gas from its plant in
Bhopal was a "horrific" event that changed the industry
forever and it "understand why after over two decades the
feeling of loss still exists".

Dow also said the Bhopal episode of 1984 was "a
tragedy of such immense and unprecedented scope that it is
understandable for anger and grief to remain more than a
quarter of a century later".

However, UCC said that in 1989 it settled the
litigation related to the Bhopal gas release, without any
judgement on the company`s liability, in deference to the
wishes of the Supreme Court of India to swiftly compensate the
victims of the tragedy.

"The settlement was reached between the Government of
India and UCC as well as its then-subsidiary, Union Carbide
India Ltd. As a matter of law, the 1989 settlement is fair,
final and irrevocable", the UCC said.

It said the Supreme Court has twice validated the
settlement (in 1991 and 2007), refusing to reopen challenges
and acknowledging the long-standing position taken by the
Government of India that the settlement is fair, reasonable
and final.

Dow chemicals, the Michigen-based firm termed center`s
decision to file a curative plea as "abrupt turnaround" and it
was not understandable why it opened it again after full and
final settlement.

UCC said as recently as November 2010, India`s Welfare
Commissioner, the Government official charged with overseeing
compensation payout for Bhopal victims, filed an affidavit
with the Supreme Court urging that the settlement not be

"Nothing has occurred over the past three months to
justify a change in the Government`s position", it said.

The Government`s action will serve only to undermine
the global perception of India as a nation committed to the
rule of law and the integrity of legally-binding agreements and
principles that must form the foundation of confidence and
certainty in ongoing investment in India by the international

Twenty-two years ago, the Supreme Court of India took
considered and deliberate steps to ensure a fair and
appropriate resolution of existing and future claims related
to the Bhopal gas tragedy.

The Government of India entered into the binding
settlement in 1989, received all moneys due under the
settlement agreement, established the compensation programme,
and controlled the criteria for, and distribution of,
the settlement funds.

Respect for the rule of law and principles of due
process led the Court to reject challenges to the settlement
in the past and should lead it to reject the Government of
India`s unsubstantiated and unwarranted action now.

Dow also said equally incomprehensible is the
Government`s demand to attach liability to Dow, which has no
connection to the tragedy or its aftermath. Dow never owned,
operated or inherited Union Carbide India Limited`s (UCIL)
Bhopal site.

"The fact that Dow could not have liability for the
Bhopal gas tragedy is recognised not only under principles of
US corporate law, but by the laws of India as well", it


First Published: Monday, February 28, 2011 - 22:44

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