Clearing the decks for early commissioning of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, the Madras high court on Friday held that its two units did not suffer from any infirmity for want of approvals and rejected safety fears as 'unfounded'.
Dismissing a batch of petitions challenging the Indo-Russian joint venture, a division bench said, "There is absolutely no impediment for the Nuclear Power Corporation of
India Limited to proceed with the project," which has been delayed by protests by the locals over safety concerns.
"We are of the view that the KNPP in respect of units 1 and 2 do not suffer from any infirmities for want of any clearance" from any of the authorities, including the Environment Ministry, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, the Tamil Nadu Pollution
Control Board and the Department of Atomic Energy," it said.
In its keenly awaited verdict that would pave the way for loading of fuel in the first of the 2X 1000 MW reactor, the bench comprising Justices P Jyothimani and M Duraiswamy termed apprehensions about the safety of units 1 and 2 as 'unfounded'.
"When that is so and the experts in the field have given concrete opinion more than once, it is not for this court to substitute its own view simply because there is a fear after the Fukushima accident," the court held.
"In projects of this nature there is certainly a public fear involved. Simply because there is a remote possibility of happening of an event, it does not mean that the very project becomes useless," the bench said.
Observing that energy requirement was of 'utmost importance', the bench said the government had taken a policy decision to implement nuclear energy projects for useful purposes.
"Interference by the court in the policy decisions which are of basic importance and public importance for the benefit of the public is opposed to the public interest itself," it said.
Endorsing the views of former President A P J Abdul Kalam, who had visited the plant, the court suggested that the State government set up a multi-speciality hospital in the area, apart from establishing schools with hostels to ensure best education to the children of the locals.
The government may also provide adequate infrastructure facilities to enable the fishermen in the area to have their mechanised boats and other jetties repaired in and around Kudankulam along with cold storage facilities and necessary financial assistance.
On the issue of holding a public hearing, the court said, "We do not understand as to what purpose the public hearing will serve in respect of an existing project."
Noting that enormous government funds had been spent on the project, it said in such a situation public hearing could at the most be for the purpose of rectification of possible defects and not for the purpose of abandoning the project.
The court also expressed happiness over the Rs 500 crore package announced by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for various welfare schemes and facilities for the residents of Kudankulam and nearby areas.
Appreciating the government's steps, the court said effective steps should be taken to create a peaceful atmosphere in the area for the betterment of the entire country as a whole.
Reacting to the verdict, People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy convenor S P Udayakumar, spearheading the protest against the plant since August last year, said, "It is one-sided and against the people, who are struggling for the past one year in a democratic way. Injustice has been done and we will appeal in the Supreme Court."