DANBURY, CONN., JAN. 18 -- Union Carbide Corp. said today it has appealed an Indian court order that the company pay $270 million in interim relief to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak that killed more than 2,000 people.
The mid-December order for interim relief "without evidence or trial is contrary to law," the company said in a brief statement released from its headquarters here. The company faces both civil and criminal trials in India, but those trials have not started yet.
The appeal, filed today in Jabalpur, India, asks the high court in the state of Madhya Pradesh to set aside the interim order, Carbide spokesman Ed Van Den Ameele said.
"It must be clear to the government of India that the court's order merely delays ultimate resolution of victim concerns by introducing a new and unenforceable concept of law," Van Den Ameele said.
In 1986, India filed a lawsuit against Carbide for $3 billion in damages for the gas leak in which it says 2,850 people were killed and more than 20,000 others were seriously injured. It was the world's worst industrial accident.
On Dec. 1, India filed criminal charges, accusing Carbide, its subsidiaries and officers of homicide and injury to people and animals when the methyl isocyanate leaked from a pesticide plant operated by a Carbide subsidiary in Bhopal.
The Indian judge ordered the interim relief in mid-December, five months after the multinational corporation had offered to give more than $4.6 million in interim relief "on humanitarian grounds."
"Union Carbide is committed to helping the victims, but that help cannot be achieved without due process of law stipulated in United States courts," Van Den Ameele said. "Interim compensation cruelly raises unachievable expectations in the people of Bhopal."
Union Carbide said that sabotage at Bhopal will be proven in the course of a fair trial. It also noted that under traditional legal theories, such a finding would exonerate the corporation.
The Indian government contends that the December 1984 leak was caused by negligence on the part of Carbide, and has supported its proposals for interim relief on grounds that there is a solid case against the company. The Indian government also says many more people might die before a trial is completed.