"Just after midnight on December 3, 1984, methyl isocante gas began leaking from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India (Hull & Kou, 1996)". What legal questions did this case portray? With this paper we will shed some light on what happened in the aftermaths of this tragedy, and explain the happenings from an International Business law perspective.
On December 3, 1984, the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) plant in Bhopal had a gas leak of a highly poisonous gas which led to the death of 3,800 people, and the injury of more than 100,000 people. UCIL was manufacturing fertilizer and needed the toxic gas methyl isocyanate (MIC). The plant produced this gas themselves, using Indian technology. With this method they had to store large amounts of chemicals, whereas they before had them delivered in smaller doses at a time. Other ways of making this gas were available, where storage was not necessary. The way the US plants and the Indian plant stored MIC differed; the US way was safer and therefore more expensive.
UCIL was a joint venture. The US firm Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) owned 51%; the rest was owned by the Indian government and Indian individuals. When the plant was built in 1973, the Indian government controlled and approved the plant's design and construction and UCC assisted the Indian subsidiary in this phase. Many major changes took place after this, though, under complete control of the Indian management, controlled and approved by the Indian government. One of these changes was that UCIL started making MIC themselves. Materials and components used were produced in India by Indians.
The UCIL plant in Bhopal lacked safety devices that would warn workers on pressure building up in the tanks, which was standard in plants on American soil. The safety devices present had failed to function, giving the toxic gas free passage to the open air surrounding the city of Bhopal. At the time of the accident the Bhopal plant was... [continues]
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