Reached Daily Limit?

Explore a new way of legal research!

Click Here
Indian Case Summary

G.Sundarrajan vs Union Of India & Ors on 6 May, 2013 – Case Summary

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

In the case of G. Sundarrajan vs Union of India & Others, decided on 6 May 2013, the Supreme Court of India was confronted with an issue of significant national and international importance, concerning the establishment of a nuclear power plant in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu. The case was presided over by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra.

Facts of the Case

The case revolved around the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP), which was set up by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) under the guidance and supervision of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), and the Central and State Governments. The KKNPP was established following an inter-governmental agreement between India and the erstwhile USSR in November 1988, supplemented by another agreement signed by India and Russia on 21 June 1998.

The appellants raised concerns about the safety of the plant, particularly in light of past nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island (USA), Chernobyl (Russia), and Fukushima (Japan). They argued that the plant should not be commissioned until sufficient safeguards were in place, based on the recommendations of a Task Force appointed by NPCIL. They contended that the AERB and NPCIL were legally obliged to implement these recommendations to safeguard the fundamental right to life and property of the people residing in and around Kudankulam, as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Issues Raised

The primary issues raised in the case were:

  1. Whether the KKNPP had been set up following all safety standards laid down by the AERB.
  2. Whether the plant’s design incorporated advanced safety features complying with current standards of redundancy, reliability, independence, and prevention of common cause failures in its safety systems.
  3. Whether the plant had provisions for withstanding external events like earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, tidal waves, cyclones, shock waves, aircraft impact on main buildings, and fires.
  4. Whether the plant had adequate measures for the safe disposal of radioactive waste and spent fuel.
  5. Whether the plant had adequate measures in place to safeguard the life and property of the people in case of a potential disaster, in accordance with the Disaster Management Plan.

Court’s Observations and Judgment

The court observed that the KKNPP had been set up following all safety standards laid down by the AERB and that its design incorporated advanced safety features. It noted that the plant had provisions for withstanding external events and had adequate measures for the safe disposal of radioactive waste and spent fuel. The court also noted that steps were being taken to implement the 17 recommendations made by the Task Force of NPCIL.

The court held that it could not sit in judgment over the decision taken by the Government of India, NPCIL, etc., for setting up the KKNPP in view of the Indo-Russia agreement. It stated that courts could not stand in the way of the Union of India honoring its inter-governmental agreement with Russia.

The court concluded that the plant was safe and could be commissioned, subject to the AERB’s ongoing regulatory and safety measures. It also directed the NPCIL to submit a report on the compliance of each of the 17 recommendations before commissioning the plant.

The court’s decision in this case underscored the importance of balancing the need for nuclear power with the imperative of ensuring safety standards to protect the life and property of the people and the environment.