BHOPAL, India — The Indian government today filed criminal charges against the Union Carbide Corp. for the Bhopal gas leak, despite reports the two sides are close to an out-of-court settlement of the civil suit prompted by the 1984 disaster.
The charges--including homicide and causing injuries--were filed in the court of Bhopal's chief judicial magistrate, Kanhaiya Lal Sisodia.
They were filed two days before the third anniversary of the gas leak from a plant run by a Union Carbide subsidiary that killed more than 2,800 people and injured thousands of others.
Chief Union Carbide spokesman Robert M. Berzok called the criminal charges "completely unfounded."
Employee Sabotage Alleged
Carbide officials maintain that the leak was the result of sabotage by a disgruntled employee of Union Carbide India Ltd., Berzok said from company headquarters in Danbury, Conn.
"The charges against Union Carbide Corp. and its former chairman, Warren M. Anderson, appear to be motivated by the government of India's political inability to accept the fact of employee sabotage," he said. "It also appears that the government of India may be using this as a tactic to deflect public criticism as the tragedy approaches its third anniversary."
B. K. Shukla, deputy superintendent of the Central Bureau of Investigation, a government agency similar to the FBI, filed the charges for the Indian government.
Accord Reported Near
The move follows reports that Carbide was close to an out-of-court settlement for the gas leak, the world's worst industrial disaster. India has filed a $3-billion lawsuit against the U.S. multinational corporation because of the leak.
While government officials have said they want an out-of-court settlement of the civil suit, the government has been under pressure to pursue a criminal case to fix liability for the accident.
Opposition parties, social activists and environmentalists have argued that multinational corporations must be held responsible for their operations in Third World countries.
The civil suit holds that the accident resulted from negligence.
Suit Names a Dozen
A dozen people and companies were named in the criminal charges, including Union Carbide Corp. and its subsidiaries Union Carbide India Ltd., Calcutta, and Union Carbide Eastern Inc., Hong Kong.
Anderson had visited this central Indian city a few days after the gas leak from the pesticide plant operated by Carbide's Indian subsidiary.
In addition to Anderson, officials named in the charges include the subsidiary's chairman, Keshav Mahindra, Vice President Kishore Kamdaar and Works Manager J. Mukund.