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Tata Mundra case: US court took 'narrow view', Kutch fisherfolk to challenge ruling

Counterview Desk
Strongly reacting to a US Federal Court ruling in favour of the World Bank’s private arm, International Finance Corporation (IFC), in the Tata Mundra Case, the civil rights organizations Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS), representing the fisherfolk of Kutch, and the advocacy group Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) have said that IFC, in its arguments, before the court was trying to hide “behind technicalities of jurisdiction”.
The case was fought through the legal team of the Earth Rights International (ERI), a US-based non-governmental, nonprofit organization, specializing in legal actions against perpetrators of earth rights abuses, on behalf of Kutch fisherfolk. “We will challenge the ruling”, the joint statement said.

Text:

The fishworkers and farmers of Mundra affected by the Tata Mundra Power project will challenge the ruling from a federal judge in the District of Columbia, United States, that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – part of the World Bank Group – is immune from being sued for damages inflicted as the commercial activity was not carried on in the United States. IFC has been granted immunity for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
In a long legal battle to hold IFC liable for the social and environmental damages caused by the Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (Tata Mundra) co-financed by IFC, which started in 2015, the community won a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court last year that the IFC does not have “absolute” immunity to all lawsuits. On Friday evening, United States District Judge John D Bates again granted the IFC’s motion to dismiss, finding that the IFC is immune under the facts of this case.
The court took a narrow view stating that “the mere fact that someone in the United States approved a letter that defended IFC’s approach to environmental and social risk management for the Tata Mundra project and announced that IFC will consider certain suggestions raised by the CAO is not sufficient to establish that plaintiffs’ complaint is based upon conduct carried on in the United States”.
It is not only unfortunate but also unethical and legally liable, that in spite of causing irreversible damage to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast, destroying the livelihood of thousands of fishworkers, farmers, saltpan workers and cattle grazers IFC gets to hide behind the technicalities of law. When there is growing documentation on IFC’s failure in upholding their own safeguard policies, which was confirmed by its own accountability mechanism – the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the courts have provided immunity on technical grounds.
The IFC refuses to be held accountable for the damages the Tata Mundra plant is inflicting upon farmers and fishers in Gujarat, but no institution is above the law
Budha Ismail Jam, a plaintiff in the case said, “We are disappointed by the decision, but are determined to take this fight ahead. To save our livelihoods and protect our environment for future generations, we do not see any other way. We know we are up against a wealthy and powerful institution, but we are determined to make our voices heard. We will continue to seek justice.”
“The IFC refuses to be held accountable for the damages this plant is inflicting upon farmers and fishers in Gujarat, but no institution is above the law,” added Richard Herz, Senior Litigation Attorney at Earth Rights, who pleaded the case. “Even the IFC’s own accountability mechanism criticized the IFC’s role in the project, finding myriad failures. The IFC has not denied causing harm, and it is unconscionable that it would claim immunity when it harms local people.”
Tata Mundra Power project has been a complete failure. Recently, Tata power had announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power might be forced to stop operating its imported coal-based Mundra ultra-mega power project. From the violation of national laws to the failure to apply the environmental and social safeguards, from environmental and social destruction to financial disaster, to failed policies of energy security, this project is a case study of what should not be done.
IFC has been an active participant in this story of financial failure and environmental and social damage by rejecting the findings of its own compliance mechanism. Instead of hiding behind the safety of technical aspects of law, IFC’s focus should be on using its resources to restore the environment and livelihoods of those negatively affected by this power plant.

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