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US Supreme Court lifts immunity on hearing World Bank group, accused of ignoring "violations" by Gujarat power plant

By Our Representative
In what is being interpreted by Gujarat's fisherfolk organization, Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), as it's major victory, the US Supreme Court has decided to hear a case, setting aside the plea of immunity by the World Bank group, which has funded a major ultra-mega power plant in Kutch district. According to knowledgeable sources, this will be for the first time the US Supreme Court will address the scope of international organisations’ immunity.
Dr Bharat Patel, general secretary, MASS, said, the affected communities by the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project "welcome the historic decision", adding, “This is a victory of our relentless struggle to bring to justice the crimes committed by the Tata against the fishing community. The IFC aided the process by turning a blind eye to it.” MASS is one of the petioners in the case, Budha Jam vs World Bank group's International Finance Corporation (IFC).
“International organizations like the IFC are not above the law and must be held accountable when their projects harm communities. The notion of ‘absolute immunity’ is inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent, and it is contrary to the IFC’s own mission as an anti-poverty institution. We are glad the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case and hope it will correct this error,” said Richard Herz, senior litigation attorney at EarthRights International (ERI).
Budha Jam, the main petitioner, said, "This decision on this case will be keenly awaited by not only by us but by the communities from across the world which are fighting the crimes of the international financial institutions in the name of promoting development. I am hopeful that the US Supreme Court will not let us down.”
International organisations like the IFC have long claimed they are entitled to “absolute” immunity from suit – an immunity far greater than any person, government, or entity enjoys – "no matter how illegal their actions are or how much harm they cause", to quote MASS.
"It is time to start holding international financial institutions accountable. In this time and age when the human rights and accountability discourse has travelled far and wide, hiding behind the immunity clause is contrary to the "right to seeking justice" and "rights to remedy' of the communities,” insisted Dr Patel.
Last year, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that IFC had “absolute immunity” and could not be sued for its role in the Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant that has allegedly devastated communities in Gujarat. Dr Patel regretted, this happened despite the fact that the DC Circuit recognised the “dismal” situation the plant has created for the complainants, including the destruction of their livelihoods and property and the serious threats to their health.
It allegedly also noted that the IFC had not denied those harms. Yet, the court said the IFC could not be sued based on prior DC Circuit decisions. However, one of the judges expressed strong disagreement with IFC immunity and noted that another federal court had rejected the prior DC Circuit immunity cases, which she thought were “wrongly decided.”

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