The Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) has agreed to take up an appeal filed against a power plant in Gujarat funded by US-based International Finance Corporation (IFC).
SCOTUS on Monday granted the Petition for a writ of certiorari, limited to the following question posed by the Petitioners: "Whether the International Organizations Immunities Act—which affords international organizations the “same immunity” from suit that foreign governments have, 22 U.S.C. § 288a(b)— confers the same immunity on such organizations as foreign governments have under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602-11."
The case, filed by several farmers and fishermen- Budha Ismail Jam, Kashubhai Abhrambhai Manjalia, Sidik Kasam Jam, Ranubha Jadeja, Navinal Panchayat, and Machimar Adhikar Sangharash Sangathan- would come up for hearing in the next session, beginning October.
The Petitioners allege that widespread environmental damages have resulted from the coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant, which has received USD 450 million in financial assistance from Washington DC-based IFC, the financing wing of the World Bank.
They point out that in accordance with IFC’s policy to prevent social and environmental damage, the loan agreement afforded IFC "supervisory authority" over the project and "included an Environmental and Social Action Plan designed to protect the surrounding communities" from harm. According to IFC's own ombudsman, however, IFC engaged in "inadequate supervision of the project."
Relying on the ombudsman's report, they assert that the power plant has "devastated" the local environment, and the local way of life, submitting, "To name just a few of the calamities, neighboring villagers and farmers are no longer able to procure fresh water because the plant’s construction caused “[s]altwater intrusion into the [local] groundwater.” Id. 2a n.1.
“[T]he plant’s cooling system discharges thermal pollution into the sea, killing off marine life on which fisherman rely for their income” and local residents rely for nourishment. Id. And “coal dust and ash”—released from a conveyor system that brings coal to the plant—“disperse into the atmosphere and contaminate the surrounding land and air."
IFC has, however, failed to address such grievances on grounds of absolute immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976. With the District Court and the Court of Appeals, both ruling in favor of IFC, the Petitioners have now moved the Supreme Court.