Global Environmental Liability: Multinational Corporations under Scrutiny


  • Vidyaranya Chakravarthy Namballa School of Law, University of Warwick
  • Vidyaranya Chakravarthy Namballa School of Law, University of Warwick



environmental law, globalisation


The purpose of this article is to analyse the extent of international rules that apply to multinational corporations (MNCs) regarding their environmentally degrading activities and quality control qua environmental impact. The first part of the article describes the ambiguous legal status of MNCs and examines the rules that international instruments and host state agreements impose on the activities of MNCs. The second part focuses on jurisdiction and choice of law issues of cross-border litigation and brings out its major shortcoming. Finally, the conclusion comments on the efficiency of international law in imposing environmental liability on MNCs.


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International Treaties and Documents

Vienna Convention on Civil Liablity for Nuclear Damage, Vienna, 21 May 1963, in force 12 November 1977, 2 International Legal Materials (1963) 727.

Convention of 27 September 1968 on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters, OJ 1972 L 299/32.

‘Civil Liabilities Convention’, International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage, Brussels, 29 November 1969, in force 19 June 1975, 9 International Legal Materials (1970) 45.

‘Fund Convention’, International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, Brussels, 18 December 1971, in force 16 October 1978, 11 International Legal Materials (1971) 284.

‘The Ten principles', available at:, accessed on 7 November 2008.

Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, UN Doc. A/CONF.151/26 (12 August 1992).

‘Lugano Convention’, Convention on Civil Liability for Damage Resulting from Activities Dangerous to the Environment, Lugano, 21 June 1993, European Treaty Series 150, not yet in force.

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British India Steam Navigation Co v Shammughavilas Cashew Industries & Ors [1990] 1 SCR 884

Indian Council for Enviro- Legal Action v Union of India J.T. [1996] (2) 196

MC Mehta v Union of India and MC Mehta v Kamal Nath & Ors [13.12.96],the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India

Modi Entertainment Network v W.S.G. Cricket Pte. Ltd (2003) 4 SCC 341

Potassium Mines, Case 21/76, Handelskwekerij G.J. Bier BV v Mines de Potasse d’Alsace SA [1976] ECR 1735.

Sirdar Gurdyal Singh v The Rajah of Faridkote (1894) XXI Indian Appeals 171; R. Viswanathan AIR 1963 SC 1: paragraphs 16, 32, 35 and 136).

Spilada Maritime Corporation v Cansulex Ltd. (1987) A.C. 460, House of Lords

Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v Union of India & Ors [28.8.96], the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

European Union Documents

Commission White Paper on Environmental Liability, COM (2000) 66 final, 9 February 2000.

Council Regulation 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters, OJ 2001 L 12/1.

Directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on Environmental Liability with regard to the Prevention and Remedying of Environmental Damage, OJ 2004 L143/56.


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