CASE SUMMARY OF Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India, (1991) 4 SCC 584
The Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India, famously known as the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster case dealt with the issue of a highly poisonous chemical that was leaked into the atmosphere which thereby affected thousands of people. The case is a landmark decision as it involved serious questions of environmental issues and concerns.
The Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL) was incorporated in 1934 in a densely populated area of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. The Corporation dealt with manufacturing batteries, chemicals, and pesticides with the approval of the government of India. However, in 1984, over forty tones of methyl isocyanate, a highly poisonous chemical leaked into the atmosphere. This affected the lives of the people and even caused deaths. This incident was referred to as the ‘Hiroshima of the chemical industry’.
The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 was enacted by the government in order to ensure speedy justice to the victims who were affected by the disaster. Legal proceedings were initiated against Union carbide in the Bhopal District court wherein the corporation was directed to pay compensation to the affected victims. The Union Carbide further filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the order passed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Whether the MNC was negligent in their actions and can they be held liable?
The Supreme Court of India directed Union Carbide to pay a one-time settlement of US$470 Million for the destruction caused due to the leakage of the highly poisonous chemical. Further, it was held that there is a duty of care on the part of the corporation to ensure the safety of the citizens when hazardous substances are implemented.