India: First the Fine, Then the Trial

First the Fine, Then the Trial

Was it justice -- or bad law? That was the question last week after an Indian district court judge ordered the Union Carbide Corp. to pay $270 million in interim relief to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak. The disaster claimed 2,866 lives and left some 40,000 people seriously injured. In a 17- page ruling, Judge M.W. Deo argued that while "diverse loud voices" hold up a settlement, the "poor gas victims" continue to suffer. The courts, he said, have "inherent powers" to administer justice.

"We are puzzled by this unprecedented legal concept," said Robert Berzok, a spokesman for...