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1984-2022: Complete timeline of Bhopal Gas Tragedy

Timeline of Bhopal Gas Tragedy

On the night of December 2-3, 1984, the biggest industrial catastrophe in history took place in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. At the plant of the North American company Union Carbide, a toxic gas leak caused a lethal cloud that in a few hours killed thousands of people who lived in the surroundings.

Those who did not die from gas inhalation suffered permanent injuries: blindness, breathing difficulties, paralysis, neurological disorders, and hormonal alterations… It is estimated that the number of fatalities of the tragedy, in those first hours and in the years that followed, is more than 25,000.

In 1969 Union Carbide began dumping chemical waste, which spread underground, contaminating wells and aquifers. In 1989, five years after the catastrophe, the North American multinational carried out a study on the toxicity levels of the land and the result was terrifying, so they hid it and it never came to light.

Even today the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy are fighting the war with life. At the same time, those losing their loved ones are fighting a legal battle for compensation. Locals say that gas leakage started in the factory after 10 pm. People started to realize after 11 pm. Methyl iso-cyanite gas was leaked from Union Carbide Company. About 5 lakh people were affected in the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Locals still say that thousands of people died within 1 hour. Those who slept at night could not see the morning of the next day. There was only screaming everywhere. It has been 36 years since the Bhopal gas tragedy. Every year on the anniversary of the event, people’s memories are renewed. Even today, the affected areas have the effect of poisonous gas.  The second and third generations of gas-affected people are vulnerable to some disease. Most children are still born mentally challenged. 

Here is a timeline of events that followed the disaster at the plant:

Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984

December 3: Toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaks from the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, killing more than 3,500 people according to official figures. Poison clouds engulf the area surrounding the plant.

December 04:  N.K. Singh, Judge of Madhya Pradesh High Court, appointed a single-member commission to investigate the accident.

December 07:  Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson flies to Bhopal and is arrested at the airport. He was released on $2,000 bail and left India. Union Carbide is named as the 10th defendant in a criminal case for wrongful death.

9 December: American attorneys John Coale and Arthur Lowy arrive in Bhopal

11 December:  R. Ramachandran was appointed to head the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the gas leak.

19 December: Evacuation camps outside of Bhopal closed.

30 December:  Madhya Pradesh government plans to seek compensation in U.S. courts.

1985

January 01:  Gas victims protest against the state government for the suspension of relief funds.

January 03:  Committee established for free legal aid to victims.

February: The Central government files a $3.3 billion lawsuit from Union Carbide in a US court.

April 08:  Government of India files complaint against Carbide.

November 26:  Plan for disbursal of the $5 m. relief funds approved by Judge Keenan.

December 3: Anniversary marked in Bhopal by bandh, rallies; settlement reached on the compensation of workers dismissed by the closure of Bhopal plant— approximately $1,000 each.

December 04:  Gas leak at Srireun Food and Fertilizer Industries in Delhi causes panic.

December 09: Publication of plans of GAF to offer $68 per share to acquire 40% of Carbide stock.

1986

May 12:  Judge Keenan agreed to the UCC’s arguments and ordered the claims dismissed on the grounds of forum non-conveniens stating that India is a more appropriate forum for a trial.

September 9: The Indian government, seeking $3 billion, is suing on behalf of the victims in the Bhopal district court.

December 20:  Supreme Court of India delivers judgement in Sriram [Delhi Gas Leak] case, holding industries engaged in hazardous activities are strictly liable to their workers and to residents.

1987

January 4: A federal appeals court upholds the dismissal of the US cases.

December 1: CBI charge sheets Anderson et al; summons served on Anderson and Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) for wrongful death charges

December 17:  Bhopal District Judge M.W. Deo, orders Union Carbide to pay the victims an estimated $270 million in pre-trial interim relief.

1988

4 April: Interim Compensation challenged before the High Court at Jabalpur. By judgment dated April 4, 1988, the High Court reduced the interim compensation to Rs.250 crores. UCC challenged this further before the Supreme Court.

1989

February: Bhopal Chief Judicial Magistrate issues warrant for arrest without the possibility of bail against Anderson for ignoring summons; India and Union Carbide settle out of court; an indemnity of $470 million is delivered

Feb-Mar: Protests begin against unfair settlements

 February: CJM, Bhopal, issues warrant for arrest without the possibility of bail against Warren Anderson for repeatedly ignoring summonses.

February: The Indian government and Union Carbide settle out of court, and Union Carbide awards $470 million in compensation.

1990

December:  The Supreme Court confirmed the validity of the Law of Claims applying the doctrine of parens patriae [Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India (1990) 1 SCC 613].

1991

 October 3: The Supreme Court refused to reopen the settlement, justifying it under article 142 of the Constitution. The court expressed the hope that UCC would contribute Rs.50 crore to establish a hospital in Bhopal for the victims.

1992

January: Part of $470 million distributed to Bhopal gas victims

February: Anderson was declared a fugitive for ignoring the citation.

1994

January 7-25: The Permanent People’s Tribunal [PPT] on Industrial Hazards and Human Rights, which held its session in Bhopal in October 1992, recommended the creation of an International Medical Commission in Bhopal (IMCB)

Also Read:  Bhopal Gas Tragedy: सुप्रीम कोर्ट में सरकार मौत के असली आंकड़े पेश करने से बच क्यों रही है?

December 14: IMCB’s Interim Report was released in Bhopal.

1996

September: SC waters down charges against Indian officials of UCIL, a subsidiary of UCC and majority owned by UCC, in part because the blame fell on UCC.

1999

August: Union Carbide announces merger with US-based Dow Chemicals.

November: Several individual victims of the Bhopal disaster and survivor organizations file a class action lawsuit against Union Carbide and Warren Anderson, in the Southern District Court of New York (federal court), accusing Carbide of violating international human rights law, the environmental law and international law.

2000

April: Shareholder class action lawsuit against Dow Chemical for failing to disclose Union Carbide’s Bhopal-related liabilities to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

August: Judge Keenan of the Southern District Court of New York (SDNY) summarily dismisses the class action lawsuit filed by the survivors. Attorneys representing the surviving plaintiffs are appealing the decision.

2001

February: Union Carbide refuses to take responsibility for UCIL’s obligations in India.

2002

January: A civic organization study found lead and mercury in the breast milk of lactating mothers in communities near the plant

June: Survivors protest in New Delhi after India reported dropping charges against Anderson

August: A private study in India found lead and mercury in the milk of nursing mothers in communities near the plant.

August: Charges of culpable homicide not amounted to murder against Anderson; The court sought his extradition; US officials say unable to trace him

2003

May: The Indian government sends a formal extradition request for Anderson to the United States.

July: The CBI hands over the merger documents to the CJM and requests the CJM to take a decision on involving Dow in the criminal case. The court directed the CBI to take prompt action on the extradition of Warren Anderson.

2004

March: A US court says it could order Dow Chemicals to clean up soil and groundwater at the abandoned factory site if the Indian government provides a no-objection certificate. The Government of India sends the certificate to the United States.

June: The United States rejects Anderson’s extradition request from India saying the request does not “meet the requirements of certain provisions” of the bilateral extradition treaty.

July:  Supreme Court orders the central bank to pay out more than Rs 15 billion, part of the original $470 million received as compensation held in a dollar account since 1992.

October: Bhopal gas victims are protesting the government’s failure to pay compensation to victims.

October: The Supreme Court of India sets November 15 as the deadline for paying compensation. Authorities begin distributing compensation to relatives of dead Bhopal gas victims.

2010

 June 10: All eight accused, including the then Chairman of Union Carbide Keshub Mahindra, in the Bhopal Gas disaster case were convicted by a court in Bhopal. All eight are Indian and guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence), 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code (which carries a sentence of up to two years) and are fined 100,000 rupees (2,000 U.S. dollars) each. Warren Anderson is not mentioned. The light sentences are decried by protesters and amnesty groups around the world.

2014

September 29: Former UCC Chairperson Warren Anderson passes away in a nursing home in Florida. His death is met with protests in Bhopal as many view him as going unpunished.

2016

October: The district magistrate’s court ruled that then Bhopal collector Moti Singh and superintendent of police in 1984, Swaraj Puri, should be questioned for letting Anderson leave India.

2017

Bhopal gas tragedy: Amnesty International lobbies the US on human rights issues in India.

2018

The four-member expert group, which met on April 4, 2018, “strongly recommended that this data, due to its inherent flaws, should not be put in the public domain and shared at any platform”.

2019

A report released by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in April 2019 termed the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy as one of the world’s ‘major industrial accidents’ of the 20th century. The report said at least 30 tons of methyl isocyanate gas released from the Union Carbide pesticide plant affected more than 600,000 workers and nearby residents.

2022

In the hearing held on March 25, 2022, the District Judge of Bhopal has given one more date for hearing to Union Carbide and its erring officials from April 25-29, 2022 from 11 am to 12:30 pm to present their final arguments.

A Constitution Bench has given Solicitor General Tushar Mehta time till October 11 to seek direction from the Center whether it wants to “press” its curative petition seeking enhancement of compensation to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, which was already Paid out is over $470 million. by union carbide

“The government will have to take a stand whether it will pressurize the curative petition or not,” said Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who is presiding over the five-judge bench.

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