Eleven members of US Congress today filed an amicus brief with the country's Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on behalf of more than 20,000 victims of the 1984 Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal.
The 29-page brief, which was initiated by leading Congressman Rep Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ), founder of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, comes in response to a decision by a US District Court in New York that disregarded India's submission of a formal statement requesting relief.
In the brief, the 11 lawmakers argued that the District Court was wrong in refusing to consider India's statement requesting cleanup of the Bhopal plant. They also stated that the disregard of India's submission was improper and interfered with US public policy and foreign relations with India.
"The Bhopal victims have repeatedly tried their cases in the US court system but have been subjected to unfair treatment and corporate favouritism," Pallone said, adding, "As elected officials, we have a responsibility to call on the courts to recognize the rights of India and the residents of Bhopal."
The lawmakers also addressed the environmental ramifications of the trial, stating in the amicus brief, "It is a mandate of the US Congress to ensure that US corporations and companies investing abroad or undertaking activities overseas comply with local, national and international laws regarding the environment and do not engage in environmental abuses. The members of Congress request that this Court accord due consideration to the strong legal and public policy interests of the United States in affording redress to victims of environmental pollution and harm caused by American corporations."
On December 2, 1984, a Union Carbide plant leaked 40 tons of lethal gas in Bhopal killing 4,000 people within hours and injuring more than 20,000. Since then, the death count has risen to well over 14,000 as a result of exposure to the gas.