In a recent move, Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said that the government has decided to not intervene in the case against the Union Carbide corporation in a New York court.
The victims of Bhopal disaster and activists have slammed the government’s decision, which comes despite Home Minister P Chidambaram’s (he also heads the Group of Ministers on Bhopal Disaster) assurance in the Parliament that nobody will be allowed to go scot-free.
Noted social activist and lawyer Gopal Krishna has written a letter to Maneka Gandhi, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Government Assurances, to bring the issue to the notice of the committee and its members.
The letter is reproduced below.
Smt. Maneka Gandhi
Chairperson & Members
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Government Assurances
Subject: Government’s Assurance in the matter of Bhopal Disaster
This is to draw your urgent attention towards the Government of India’s decision of non-intervention in the ongoing case against the Union Carbide corporation in a New York court is justified by the Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati and Union Law Minister Mr M. Veerappa Moily who has said on 27 October, 2010 that the government had decided against pursuing the case in the US, “since it was not in the interests of victims and the country”.
This stance of the government is contrary to the assurance given to the Parliament by Mr P Chidambram, the Union Home Minister who heads the Group of Ministers on Bhopal Disaster saying, “we will certainly hold that company or those companies liable for remediation and whatever we had done by way of remediation before the liabilities are crystallised we will ask for restitution. We are not not allowing anyone to go scot-free”. The Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances must make these ministers comply with this assurance given to the parliament.
Unmindful of such an assurance, Union Law Minister and Attorney General appear to have been misled into betraying the supreme national interest of Indians by acting to protect US corporate interests especially to pander to the desires of the visiting USA’s President, Barack Obama.
Notably, this move is in furtherance of the communication dated July 30, 2010 from Mike Froman, the US Deputy National Security Advisor to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission and July 18, 2005 agreement between the Indian Prime Minister and the US President that led to the formation of the US-India CEO Forum, comprising selected CEOs from both countries signed by Ratan Tata and Willian Harrison, co-chairs of the Forum. US double standard in the handling of BP’s oil spill disaster and Union Carbide Corporation’s disaster in India is quite manifest.
The document titled “US – India Strategic Economic Partnership” reads as follows: “Set Up a Dispute Settlement Mechanism – Specific focus on resolving legacy issues such as those impacting Dow/ Bhopal tragedy of 1984 … would send a strong positive signal to US investors.” And it recommends a Task Force on Judicial Reform “comprising representatives from Law Ministry, GoI, Supreme Court and CEO Forum members.” This document is available on Planning Commission’s website.
It is high time the proceedings and action of US-India CEO Forum are brought under parliamentary scrutiny because the Forum is interfering even with the due process of law in the matter of making Union Carbide Corporation and Dow Chemicals Company accountable to provide legal remedy to the victims of world’s worst industrial disaster.
It is quite apparent that the Union Law Minister and Attorney General are responding to the threats from likes of Mike Froman, the US Deputy National Security Advisor who had in an e-mail to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairperson, Planning Commission had written “We are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemical issues. I am not familiar with all the details but I think we want to avoid development which put a chilling effect on our investment relationship” although the matter is sub judice both in the Bhopal court as well as in the US court.
The Committee must recommend ways for Government of India to act in ways more stringent than the way US President acted against the British Petroleum (BP) in the matter of Oil Spill disaster.
It is an open secret that under the influence of Dow Chemicals, US administration has linked investment relations with the liability of the company. Indian Parliament must act and support our government which is under tremendous pressure from the US Corporation and the US government.
Therefore, the Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances must make the government comply with the assurance given to the parliament in this particular case besides the assurances the government has given to the parliament since 1984. I would be glad to share more information in the matters related to Bhopal disaster.
(Gopal Krishna is a social activist and lawyer. He is a guest writer with Canary Trap.)