In a previous blog, we outlined the two theories of a 1984 tragedy in Bhopal that resulted in approximately 15,000 deaths. On Monday, June 7, 2010 (nearly 16 years after the incident) 7 former Union Carbide senior employees were convicted of “death by negligence” by an Indian court. The sentence was two years in jail and a fine of 100,000 rupees (just over $2,000 U.S.). One former employee who was also charged has since died. The Union Carbide subsidiary which owned the plant at the time of the leak was also ordered to pay 500,000 rupees as well.
The charges against the company and the senior officials had been reduced from culpable homicide by India’s supreme court in 1996. The head of Union Carbide has also been charged but extradition requests remain outstanding.
The recent court case has highlighted not only the problems that led to the chemical leak, but problems that result in massive delays in the Indian court system. The Law Minister has admitted the delay and said “We need to address that.”
Although the court did not release additional information with their ruling, this appears to support the theory that the an equipment or safety system failure (and not employee sabotage) caused the leak.