University of Wisconsin - Law School Digital Repository

A Bhopal Timeline

Below is a timeline of the  Bhopal disaster and its legal, financial and political ramifications. The timeline covers December 1984 to 2010 and is based in part on a chronology included in Marc Galanter's Bhopal papers, on The Hindu's chronological timeline, and "Unsettling Truths, Untold Tales: The Bhopal Gas Disaster Victims 'Twenty Years' of Courtroom Struggles For Justice" by S. Muralidhar.

There are two versions of the timeline below. Both show the same events, but one can be viewed on one page by scrolling down, while the other places the events on an interactive timeline that illustrates when events happened and highlights their chronological relation to each other.

Download the full timeline PDF here.

1984

 

3 December

Methyl isocyahate (liCI) leaks from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal.

4 December

N.K. Singh, Judge on Madhya Pradesh High Court, appointed as single-member commission to investigate accident.

7 December

Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson flies to Bhopal and is arrested at airport. Melvin Belli files $15 billion class action in West Virginia.

9 December

American attorneys John Coale and Arthur Lowy arrive in Bhopal. The government of Madhya Pradesh announces its intention to file suit against Carbide.

10 December

M.A. Krishnamurthy files public interest writ seeking compensation for victims. Belli arrives in Bhopal. Madhya Pradesh government refuses Carbide's Rs. 1 crore relief donation.

11 December

R. Ramachandran appointed to head Indian Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into gas leak. Mother Teresa visits Bhopal. Junior doctors strike.

14 December

Residents flee Bhopal as plan to neutralize remaining MIC is announced.

19 December

Evacuation camps outside of Bhopal closed.

30 December

Madhya Pradesh government plans to seek compensation in U.S. courts. State cabinet warns residents to avoid American lawyers.

1985

 

1 January

Gas victims rally in Bhopal to protest suspension by state government of relief payments.

3 January

Central government establishes committee to give free legal aid to victims.

12 January

Anderson predicts that U.S. courts will dismiss all Bhopal Isuits. 100 arrested as protestors in Bhopal occupy railway station.

15 January

K. Parasaran, India's Attorney General, arrives in New York to discuss viability of suing in U.S. courts.

19 January

Stockholder suit filed against Carbide board of directors.

24 January

Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation holds consolidation hearing in New Orleans.

27 January

ATLA board rejects motion to censure American lawyers for Bhopal activities.

28 January

Stuart Diamond's report in New York Times begins

3 February

Reports that death toll may be as high as 20,000. Parasaran recommends that central government sue in U.S. court.

6 February

Suits combined in Southern District of New York, assigned to Judge John F. Keenan. Controversy over use of sodium thiosulphate as antidote to MIC poisoning begins.

20 February

Central government passes ordinance making itself legal representative of Bhopal victims.

8 March

First hearing in combined suits postponed.

9 March

Robins, Zelle, Larson & Kaplan chosen as counsel by Indian government.

19 March

Carbide holds settlement talks with Indian government.

21 March

Carbide's report on the accident.

3 April

U.S. lawyers plan to challenge ordinance making Indian government the representative of victims.

4 April

Carbide's settlement offer of $100 million is rejected.

8 April

Government of India files complaint against Carbide.

11 April

Writ challenging validity of ordinance filed on behalf of 14 victims.

16 April

First pre-trial hearing in New York. Judge Keenan urges Carbide to make interim relief payments.

18 April

Carbide offers $5 million in interim aid.

25 April

Judge Keenan selects Attorneys Ciresi, Chesley and Bailey to co-ordinate plaintiff litigation.

4 June

Rajiv Gandhi doubts out-of-court settlement can be reached.

8 June

India rejects Carbide's offer of interim aid.

25 June

Rally of gas victims in Bhopal broken up by police, injuring many. Volunteer doctors arrested.

28 June

American attorneys file joint suit in consolidated action in New York. India's representative on panel (Ciresi) does not join suit.

11 July

Carbide plant in Bhopal closed, leaving 1000 jobless.

17 July

Justice Singh charges that Madhya Pradesh government is not co-operating in his inquiry.

23 July

Carbide's second-quarter earnings fall 19.8%.

29 July

Carbide asks for dismissal of all U.S. claims on grounds of "forum non conveniens."

30 July

International Federation of Free Trade Unions issues report critical of Carbide.

31 July

Carbide announces corporate re-organization.

7 August

Second pre-trial hearing in New York.

11 August

Carbide plant in Institute, West Virginia leaks toxic chemicals

20 August

American lawyers with Bhopal suits file claims over West Virginia leak.

13 August

GAF announces it has acquired more than 5% of Carbide stock, marking the presence of a serious campaign to take over the troubled corporation.

26 August

Limited discovery begins in Bhopal suit in New York.

28 August

Carbide announces major restructuring, including plant closings and work force reductions.

2 September

GAF holding of Carbide stock increases to 9.9%.

1 October

OSHA cites Carbide for "willful neglect" of safety procedures at its Institute, W.Va. plant.

26 November

Plan for disbursal of the $5 m. relief funds approved by Judge Keenan.

3 December

Anniversary marked in Bhopal by bandh, rallies; settlement reached on compensation of workers dismissed by closure of Bhopal plant— approximately $1,000 each.

4 December

Gas leak at Srireun Food and Fertilizer Industries in Delhi causes panic.

9 December

Publication of plans of GAF to offer $68 per share to acquire 40% of Carbide stock.

11 December

Seven victims of Delhi gas leak file suit for damages in Court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Delhi. GAF announces intention to sell of almost half of Carbide if takeover successful.

12 December

GAF sweetens bid by offering $68 cash for all Carbide shares.

15 December

Carbide announces to buy 23.55 million (35%) of its shares for a package of cash and securities valued at $85 a share.

17 December

Madhya Pradesh government announces that it is terminating the judicial commission headed by Justice N.K. Singh.

23 December

Moody's lowers credit rating of Union Carbide debt securities.

25 December

GAF raises its bid to $74 per share of Carbide stock.

30 December

Judge Milton Pollack of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denies GAF motion to enjoin the Carbide stock buy-back plan.

30 December

Carbide announces plan to sell engineering polymers and composites business to Amoco for $210m. Its film packaging businesses were sold to Envirodyne for $230m.

1986

 

1 January

Madhya Pradesh Government discontinues supply of free rations to MIC victims; ten day yagna begins, to purify atmosphere of Bhopal and bring peace to souls of victims.

2 January

GAF offers to acquire Carbide for $78 per share; Carbide board of directors meets and announced defense plan which involves sale of consumer divisions, purchase of 55% of its shares, split in stock, rise in regular dividend and payment of special dividend.

3 January

Oral argument on forum non conveniens motion before Judge Keenan.

8 January

GAF gives up on bid to take over Carbide.

8 February

Judge Keenan meets secretly with a small number of victims, flown over from Bhopal at his request.

23 March

Publication of supposed settlement in range of $350m. arranged by Carbide and private plaintiffs lawyers.

7 April

Carbide announce additional $1 billion in assets sales, including Danbury headquarters and other businesses.

12 May

Judge Keenan dismisses Bhopal victims' claims against Carbide on grounds of forum non conveniens, subject to three conditions.

21 May

Individual plaintiffs attorneys move that Judge Keenan hold a fairness hearing to determine suitability of proposed settlement.

28 May

Judge Keenan denies motion for fairness hearing; refuses to grant stay of Opinion and Order or to amend three conditions.

12 June

Carbide accepts Judge Keenan's conditions, reserving right to appeal.

26 June

Chesley and Bailey file Notice of Appeal on behalf of individual plaintiffs attorneys.

30 June

Carbide completed sale of battery operations to Ralston Purina.

10 July

Carbide appeals on discovery.

15 July

Sale of Carbide's home and automotive operations completed, marking end of company's consumer products division. Carbide now entirely an industrial company.

22 July

Carbide announces intention to sell agricultural products division, including pesticide operations, and including the Institute plant.

10 August

Carbide announces finding that leak was deliberate act of disgruntled employee.

26 August

Carbide announces plans sell electrical carbon business.

5 September

Government of India files cases against Carbide in District Court in Bhopal, asking unspecified compensatory damages plus punitive damages.

4 November

Carbide announces refinancing plan to buy back $2.53b of high interest bonds, take new bank loans and issue new stock.

17 November

Carbide files counter-suit against Union and State Governments; Bhopal court issues temporary injunction barring Carbide from selling assets, paying dividends, or buying back debt.

22 November

Government of India announces it will seek over $3 billion in suit against Carbide.

24 November

Appeal of Judge Keenan's forum non conveniens decision argued before panel of Second Circuit; Carbide asks increased oversight over Indian proceedings.

25 November

Stockholder suits charging Carbide with failure to warn investors of hazards at Bhopal dismissed by Judge Keenan.

27 November

Carbide offers to maintain $3 billion unencumbered to meet any judgment in Bhopal suits.

30 November

Bhopal Court lifts injunction against Carbide selling assets, etc.

20 December

Supreme Court of India delivers judgement in Sriram [Delhi Gas Leak] case, holding industries engaged in hazardous activities are strictly liable to their workers and to residents.

1987

 

January

US Court of Appeals upholds US District Court ruling that Bhopal disaster litigation should proceed in India rather than the USA.

4 January

Against the order dated May 12, 1986 of Judge Keenan, appeals were filed by the 145 individual plaintiffs and the UCC. By order dated January 4, 1987, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disposed of the appeals by modifying the conditions subject to which the suit by Union of India had been dismissed.

5 October

Union of India’s further petition for a writ of certiorari against the order of the Court of Appeals was declined by the U.S. Supreme Court on October 5, 1987.

1 December

CBI files chargesheet against Warren Anderson and other accused, including UCC (USA), Union Carbide (Eastern) Hong Kong, and UCIL. Summons served on Anderson and UCC on charges of culpable homicide.

17 December

An interim compensation of Rs. 350 crores was ordered by Judge Deo, District Judge, Bhopal.

1988

 

4 April

Interim Compensation challenged before the High Court at Jabalpur. By judgment dated April 4, 1988 the High Court reduced the interim compensation to Rs.250 crores. UCC challenged this further before the Supreme Court.

1989

 

February

CJM, Bhopal, issues non-bailable warrant of arrest against Warren Anderson for repeatedly ignoring summons.

14/15 February

Indian government and Union Carbide strike an out-of-court deal and compensation of $ 470 million is given by Union Carbide.

March

Public protest against the unjust settlement followed by filing of a number of review and writ petitions against the settlement in the Supreme Court by the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangatan (BGPMUS), the Bhopal Gas Peedith Sangarsh Sahayog Samiti (BGPSSS) and other concerned groups.

4 May

Following widespread protests over the manner of arriving at the settlement and quashing criminal proceedings, Supreme Court agreed to review the settlement.

6 June

UCC in June 1989 finalized a ‘Site Rehabilitation Project – Bhopal Plant” for decontamination of the plant site which contained huge quantities of Sevin and Napthol tarry residues and solid wastes dumped in the solar evaporation ponds. Since no Indian organization had the expertise, it was decided to get NEERI to undertake the task under the supervision of Arthur D little &Co. appointed by UCC.

22 December

Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Claims Act applying the doctrine of parens patriae [Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India (1990) 1 SCC 613].

1990

NEERI submitted its first report in 1990 stating that there was no contamination of the groundwater in and around the plant site. Subsequent documentation reveals that UCC itself doubted NEERI’s conclusions since their internal notes revealed that majority of liquid samples collected from the area “contained napthol or sevin in quantities far more than permitted by ISI for inland disposal”

1991

 

3 October

Supreme Court declined to reopen the settlement justifying it under Article 142 of the Constitution. However, the criminal proceedings were directed to be revived. The court expressed a hope that UCC will contribute Rs.50 crore to setting up of a hospital at Bhopal for the victims.

1992

 

1 February

The CJM Bhopal declared A1 Warren Anderson A10 UCC and A11 UCC (Eastern, Hongkong) as proclaimed offenders. The CJM directed that if parties do not appear on March 27, 1992 he will order attachment of UCC’s shares in UCIL under s.82 Cr.PC.

27 March

A1, A10 and A11 fail to appear before the CJM but attachment of shares was put off at UCIL’s request.

15 April

UCC announced creation of the Bhopal Hospital Trust in London with Sir Ian Percival as Sole Trustee and endowed its entire shareholding in UCIL to the Trust clearly to defeat the attachment.

30 April

CJM Bhopal refused to recognize the creation of the Trust and endowment of UCIL shares and proceeded to attach those shares.

22 June

Trial of the Indian accused was separated and committed to Sessions Court.

19 August

The Central Government announced a scheme of interim relief to the gas victims at Rs.200/ - per month subject to a maximum of 5 lakh victims for a period of three years beginning April 1, 1990. The Supreme Court, in a writ petition by the Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan, directed by its orders dated August 19 and November 4, 1992 interim relief to be paid to all victims, including those left out from the scheme as announced.

16 October

By an order dated February 24, 1989 the Settlement Fund of 420 million US $ had been directed to be kept in a separate dollar account with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the name of the Registrar of the Supreme Court. On an application by the Union of India, the court on October 16, 1992 permitted the account to be now held in the name of the Welfare Commissioner, subject to the condition that RBI  would not release any part of the amount except on a certificate by the Welfare Commissioner that the amount withdrawn was for payment of compensation to the claimants.

1993

 

8 April

Charges framed by the Sessions Court, Bhopal against Indian accused for offences under s.304 Part II IPC.

28 May

The Supreme Court directed continuation of interim relief to the victims from June 1, 1993 and permitted Union of India to withdraw Rs.120 crores from the Settlement Fund for this purpose.

10 December

Ian Percival approached the Union of India with an ‘offer’ to sell the attached shares of UCIL to raise money for the Bhopal Hospital to be built by UCC. Union of India filed an application in the Supreme Court for enforcement of UCC’s obligation to build the expert medical facility. At the first hearing of the application, Ian Percival was present and heard. The Supreme Court asked Union of India to consider the Sole Trustee’s suggestion which was “eminently reasonable, worthy of consideration.”

1994

 

14 February

Supreme Court modified the CJM’s attachment order and permitted the attached shares to be sold.

September

UCC’s shares in UCIL sold to McLeod Russel Ltd. for Rs.170 crores. UCIL renamed as Eveready Industries India Limited (EIIL). After release of around Rs. 125 crores  (inclusive of dividends) to the BHT, the balance sale proceeds to the tune of about Rs.183 crores remained under attachment.

November

Despite numerous petitions by survivors’ groups, the Supreme Court allows Union Carbide to sell stake in UCIL to McLeod Russell (India) Ltd of Calcutta.

1995

 

19 September

Krishna Mohan Shukla, a lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court filed a PIL drawing its attention to numerous illegalities in the matter of categorization, processing and adjudication of claims by the Deputy Welfare Commissioners under the Scheme. It was stated that at lok adalats held under the Scheme, many claimants were being compelled to accept a low compensation of Rs.25,000/- in full and final  settlement of the claim and further such order could not be appealed. A three-member Committee was appointed by the Supreme Court by its order dated September 19, 1985 to examine the factual position. In its report dated November 14, 1995, the Committee confirmed many of the petitioner’s contentions and concluded “all is not well in the matter of disbursement of claims.”.

1996

 

3 April

Supreme Court directed a sum of Rs.187 crores from the attached monies to be further released to BHT for the construction of the hospital.

1 May

In the petition by Krishna Mohan Shukla, the Supreme Court by order dated May 1, 1996 struck down certain circulars issued by the Welfare Commissioner under which a Deputy Welfare commissioner could not revise the category under which the claimant was classified unless the Welfare Commissioner approved it. It called for details of the cases settled in lok adalats.

13 September

Indian accused failed in their challenge to the order framing charges before the High Court at Jabalpur. They then approached the Supreme Court by way of Special Leave Petitions. By judgment dated September 13, 1996, the Supreme Court diluted the charges against the Indian accused from s.304 Part II IPC to s.304A IPC. The trial still pending before the CJM, Bhopal.

1997

 

October

EIIL retained NEERI and Arthur D Little to conduct further decontamination studies. NEERI submitted its second report again maintaining that there was no contamination of groundwater and soil around plant site. But Arthur D little did not rule them out.

7 November

In the Krishna Mohan Shukla petition, the Supreme Court made an order permitting a claimant who was aggrieved by an order made in the lok adalat to challenge it by way of an appeal.

1998

 

September

State of M.P took control of the land. Put up notices in nearby residential areas warning against drinking water.

1999

 

August

Union Carbide announces merger with US-based Dow Chemicals.

November

International environment watchdog Greenpeace tests soil, groundwater and wells in and around the derelict Union Carbide factory and finds 12 volatile organic chemicals and mercury in quantities up to six million times higher than expected.

15 November

Fresh class action litigation filed in the court of the Southern District New York by Sajida Bano, Haseena Bi and five other victims directly affected by the contamination and five Bhopal victims groups claiming damages under 15 counts. Counts 9 to 15 related to common law environmental claims.

2000

 

28 August

Judge Keenan dismissed the class action claim on the ground that the 1989 settlement covers all future claims.

2001

 

February

Union Carbide refuses to take responsibility for UCIL’s liabilities in India. The US Federal Trade Commission approved the merger of UCC with Dow Chemical Company (Dow).

15 November

The Second Circuit of Appeals affirms in part but remanded claims on counts 9 to 15 to Judge Keenan

2002

 

January

A study by Srishti and Toxics Links finds lead and mercury in breast milk of nursing mothers in communities near the plant.

April

In discovery proceedings before Judge Keenan UCC submitted over 4000 documents.

June

Bhopal gas tragedy survivors launch a protest in New Delhi when they hear the Indian government plans to drop charges against Anderson.

August

Charges of culpable homicide are maintained against Anderson by Indian court, which demands his extradition to stand trial. Meanwhile, a British newspaper reports that Anderson is in New York after US authorities say they are unable to locate him.

2003

 

March

Judge Keenan dismissed the suit of Hasina Bi again - this time on grounds of limitation.

May

The Indian government formally conveys its request for extradition of Anderson to the US.

2004

 

March

A US court says it could order Dow Chemicals to clean soil and ground water in the abandoned factory site if the Indian government provides a no objection certificate. The Indian government forwards the certificate to the United States.

March

The Court of Appeal affirmed in part but asks Judge Keenan on remand to consider claims of Bi arising out of damage to property and the issue of decontamination by UCC of the site if the Union of India and State of M.P. had no objection.

June

The US rejects India’s request for extradition of Anderson saying the request does not “meet requirements of certain provisions” of the bilateral extradition treaty.

30 June

After victims went on a hunger strike in Delhi, the Union of India submitted a memo before Judge Keenan stating it has no objection to decontamination being undertaken by UCC at UCC’s cost.

19 July

In a representative application by 36 victims, Abdul Samad Khan and others, India’s Supreme Court orders the Central Bank to pay out more than 15 billion rupees, part of the original $ 470 million received as compensation kept in the account since 1992.

17 September

In another writ petition by the Bhopal groups for medical relief and rehabilitation, Supreme Court finalized the terms of reference of two committees – an Advisory Committee and a Monitoring Committee - appointed by it.

26 October

India’s Supreme Court sets deadline of November 15 to pay out the rest of $ 470 million paid by Union Carbide as compensation.

2010

 

10 June

All eight accused, including the then Chairman of Union Carbide Keshub Mahindra, in the Bhopal Gas disaster case convicted by a court in Bhopal. All eight are Indian and guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence), 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code (which carries a sentence of up to two years) and are fined 100,000 rupees (2,000 U.S. dollars) each. Warren Anderson is not mentioned. The light sentences are decried by protesters and amnesty groups around the world.

2014

 

29 September

Former UCC Chairperson Warren Anderson passes away in a nursing home in Florida. His death is met with protests in Bhopal as many view him as going unpunished.