Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Indian Villagers’ Appeal Against Gujarat Power Plant

The US Supreme Court in Washington DC.

The U.S. Supreme Court on May 21 said it will examine a lawsuit by Indian villagers against a Washington-based international financial institution for financing a power plant that is allegedly causing environmental damage in Gujarat.

“Petition granted,” the Supreme Court said, PTI reported. The court will hear an appeal by the villagers that challenges a lower court ruling that the International Finance Corp (IFC), an arm of the World Bank, is immune under law. IFC, which comprises 184 member countries, facilitates financing for development projects. The Gujarat power plant, owned by the Tata Group, was built in 2008 with $450 million funding received from the IFC.

The case, spearheaded by Budha Ismail Jam, along with other farmers and fishermen, would come up for hearing in the next session, beginning October, PTI reported. The villagers, who live near the plant, allege that the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant has been detrimental to the region’s environment since the project did not adhere to the international guidelines. They claim that the water discharges from the plant’s cooling system have caused widespread harm to marine life, and coal dust has resulted in contamination of soil and air.

“International organisations play an ever-increasing role in the economic landscape of this country and the world. Therefore, the question whether they are absolutely immune from any kind of lawsuit – no matter how strictly commercial their activities; no matter how egregious their actions; and no matter the views of the Executive Branch – has great significance,” the petitioners said, according to the report.

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether the IFC enjoys immunity under the 1945 International Organizations Immunity Act.

The IFC says that the advanced technology used by the plant improves efficiency, saves fuel and reduces emissions while generating power for areas that are “chronically short of electricity,” AFP reported.

The plaintiff first sued the IFC in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia in 2015 for negligence, negligent supervision, public nuisance, private nuisance, trespass and breach of contract, the news agency reported. They lost the case in 2016. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia also ruled in 2017 that IFC enjoys immunity from such litigation.