Terming the recent judgment in the Bhopal case as a "preposterous travesty", a British expert on corporate social responsibility today called for a global 'corporate manslaughter law' that can hold to account corporations such as Union Carbide.
Professor Martin Parker of the University of Leicester, a leading scholar in the area of organisation and corporate social responsibility, said the story of the Bhopal case is that the people, particularly in the global South, were unable to hold such corporations to account.
"If corporations claim to be caring, lovely, kind creatures and spend billions of dollars to build such an image, we should be able to hold them to account when they fail to behave in a responsible manner.
"The story of Bhopal is that we can't. This isn't justice, but preposterous travesty," he said.
There needs to be a manslaughter law that can be enforced globally so that corporations such as Union Carbide could be taken to task if they fail their responsibilities in other countries, Parker said.
The short sentences handed out by the court to the accused may be commensurate with Indian law, but it raised questions about corporate social responsibility, Parker said and added that the consequent concern over the judgment and laws was entirely justified.
"So far we have a one-way version of corporate social responsibility. Corporations spend billions building their images, and claim to be socially responsible, but when it comes to the crunch, such as in Bhopal, they don't want to accept responsibility," he said.
Questioning whose responsibility it was to deal with the remaining chemical waste that continued to exist in Bhopal, Parker said the key issue was a 'reciprocity of responsibility' in which corporations not only claimed but also accepted responsibility.
The issue, he said, was not about raising compensation or sending accused to prisons for such man-made disasters, but whether they can be resolved within a global corporate structure that was able to pin down the corporations to their claims to be socially responsible.
"It is not enough for a corporation in one country to excuse itself on the ground that incidents such as Bhopal happened elsewhere."Geographical distance and deferral of responsibility to local contractors cannot be excused. There has to be a global structure of law that takes into account such factors," Parker said.