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Indian High Court Agrees to Hear Contempt of Court Petition

July 7, 1988

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ A court Thursday agreed to hear arguments that Union Carbide Corp. had scorned India’s judicial system in the cases stemming from the Bhopal gas disaster, according to a news report.

A two-judge panel of the Madhya Pradesh High Court accepted a petition accusing the Danbury, Conn.-based company of contempt of court, the Press Trust of India reported.

A hearing was ordered on the petition, but no date was announced, the news agency said.

Union Carbide spokesman Ed Van Den Amelle said the company had no comment since it had not seen the report.

The petition is the latest legal entanglement stemming from the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster in which nearly 3,000 people died.

It alleges that Union Carbide showed contempt for India’s court system by asking District Judge M.W. Deo to excuse himself from hearing a $3 billion damage suit filed by India against the company, the news agency said. The company had argued that Deo showed bias in December when he ordered Union Carbide to make relief payments to gas victims before a final decision had been made in the case.

Deo rejected Union Cabide’s request June 16.

Preliminary hearings in the damage case are under way in Deo’s court in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh in central India.

The contempt of court petition was filed last month by Madhya Pradesh Advocate General A.M. Mathur and accepted Thursday by two judges in the city of Jabalpur.

It names Union Carbide, Chairman Robert Kennedy and two Indian attorneys.

The government suit stems from the leak of lethal methyl isocynate gas from a pesticide plant run by a Union Carbide subsidiary in December 1984.

India has said the gas leak resulted from negligence. Union Carbide blames it on sabotage.

Update hourly