Indian plaintiffs seek US Supreme Court review of IFC’s “absolute immunity”

27 September 2017

Indian fishing communities and farmers harmed by the Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant financed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank’s private sector arm) will take their case to the US Supreme Court, the highest court in the country. On 26 September the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that it will not reconsider its immunity rule. The decision was taken in response to a July petition filed by fishing communities and farmers represented by international NGO EarthRights International (ERI) asking the full US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to revisit a decision in their lawsuit against the IFC.  The decision to request rehearing “en banc” in July was taken after one of the judges on the June panel wrote in a dissenting opinion that cases giving the IFC “absolute immunity” were “wrongly decided” and suggested the full court should reconsider them.

In June the Court of Appeals ruled that the IFC is entitled to “absolute immunity” from suit in the US and could not be sued for its role in the coal plant that has devastated fishing and farming communities in Gujarat, India (see Observer Spring 2017, Summer 2015). “This decision tells the world that the doors of justice are not open to the poor and marginalized when it comes to powerful institutions like IFC,” said Gajendrasinh Jadeja, the head of Navinal Panchayat, a local village involved in the case, adding “But no one should be above the law.”