(2023 SCC OnLine SC 264)


1.In 1970, a new pesticide plant was opened in Bhopal, which is the capital of Madhya Pradesh. When the pesticide plant was opened in Bhopal, there were many complaints regarding the safety of the employees, but the owners of the factory did not pay any attention to the complaints. As a result, a tragic incident happened on December 2, 1984. There started leakage of MIC (Methyl Isocyanate) gas, which is a very poisonous gas and is very harmful to human beings. The sudden leakage of MIC created panic among the people of Bhopal.

2.The gas was so destructive that 2600 people immediately died. Thousands of people suffered injuries and were immediately shifted from the affected area. When the death rate was finally counted, it was found that 20,000 people lost their lives because of the leakage of the gas. More than 60,000 were affected badly because of the leakage of the gas.  

3. the court applied the case of Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India and gave judgment in favor of the Union of India that the state is required to defend the rights of its citizens. But the Union of India decided to fight the case in foreign courts instead of the Indian courts. So, a single file was made of Union Carbide and presented before Judge Keenan in the USA. But the case was dismissed by American courts on the ground that it came under the authority (area) of Indian courts. Thus, in September 1986 judicial proceedings were initiated by the Union of India against Union Carbide in Bhopal District Court. As a result, 350 million USD was demanded by the District Court of Bhopal from Union Carbide as interim compensation for the damages that had been caused due to a gas leak. So, Union Carbide filed its case in the High Court and the High Court ordered to reduce the sum of Union Carbide to 250 million USD instead of 350 million USD. Then finally, the appeal was filed by them in the Supreme Court. So, the order was given by the Supreme Court to the company to pay 470 million USD to the government. But less than the promised amount was received by the people and so they were not satisfied. So, the petition was filed in the Supreme Court in which it was stated that the settlement amount was very low and, therefore it would not be right to stop the criminal proceedings against Union Carbide.


The validity of settlement, as according to the Madhya Pradesh High Court: 

1.Validity of settlement amount ordered by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh.  

2. Justification of the dropping of criminal proceedings against Union Carbide.  



Union of India decided to fight the case in foreign court instead of Indian court. But the American court dismissed the case on grounds of authority of Indian courts. As a result, 350,000,000 USD demanded by District Court of Gopal from the Union Carbide as interim compensation for damages.


The Union of India was made representative to provide speedy justice to the victims of the Bhopal Gas Leakage under the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims), Act, 1985. The Union of India was also the owner of the minority shareholders in the company, so thus they are also responsible for the disaster. With this logic, the Supreme Court challenged the validity of the Bhopal Gas Leakage (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985 in the case of Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India.


The Supreme Court considered its judicial and moral duty to provide immediate compensation to the parties who were injured. It ordered Union Carbide Corporation to make an instant payment of USD 470 million, which will increase to USD 550 million. When converted into Indian rupees, it could be worth up to 750 crores. It allocated rupees 500 crores on untreatable cases. The number of 40,000 cases will be treated with 500 crores of whatever nature the cases may be. The sum of 25 crores will be allocated for cases that require expert medical attention, re-settlement, and care of the patients in hospitals. 25 crores were allocated for cases that were not so serious like the people who have lost their personal belongings or pet animals like cows, sheep, etc.

The supreme court made it clear how it decided the amount of USD 470 million for the compensation. The court ordered a survey of the number of people who were getting treatment in the hospital. The supreme court was dependent upon the high court’s order about the allegations that were made against Union Carbide. Under the motor vehicle act, the court did not pay any attention to the standards of compensation. The prima facie discovery of the High Court was taken into consideration by the Supreme Court, and it was discovered that the number of fatal cases stood at approximately 3,000 and remuneration charges ranged between rupees 1 lakh to 3 lakhs. This amount was about rupees 70 crores, which was more than 3 times higher than the compensation that is given under the Motor Vehicles Act. 


The MIC leak tragedy shows that Indian laws are not capable of dealing such matters. The institutions that claim that they are meant to protect and safeguard the rights of citizens remain indifferent to these problems. There was severe criticism of the legislature as it was unable to pass judgment on these matters.  

The order passed by the judiciary did not set an example for the factories that play with public health in order to earn profits. Two opportunities were lost by the court for revision of reimbursement. In 1991, it was held that the state and Centre would tackle any deficiency in the amount of compensation. It was ignorant of the thought that taxpayers of the country were not entitled to pay for the private company’s mistakes. 


Union Carbide Corporation agreed to pay some of U.S. dollar 470,000,000 to the Union of India in settlement of all claims, liability and rights arising out of the Bhopal gas disaster. The event in Bhopal revealed that increasing industrialization in developing countries without proper safety regulations could have catastrophic consequences. National government and international agency should focus widely applicable techniques for corporate responsibility and incident Prevention.

The doctrine of absolute liability says that a person could be guilty even if there was no intention to commit a crime and there is no defence available against absolute liability.