New Delhi: Sun Pharma Laboratories Limited (SPLL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dilip Shangvi-led pharma major, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited, donated Rs 31.5 crore to political parties via electoral bonds during the financial year 2019-20.

SPLL bought electoral bonds worth Rs 21.5 crore on April 15, 2019 and Rs 10 crore on May 8, 2019. SPLL was formed in 2012 and, according to credit rating agency ICRA, is involved in “manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical formulations in the domestic market.”

In 2022, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries was dragged to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for its proposed expansion of a bulk drug manufacturing unit in the Kancheepuram district, Tamil Nadu.

The project received Environment ministry’s environment clearance just three months after applying. The company maintained the plant site was about 3.72 kilometres from Vedanthangal Lake Bird Sanctuary. But locals disagreed with this claim.

This drug manufacturing unit has been running in the area for nearly two decades. However, it faced problems and courted controversies over the years because of how it affected the local environment.

The opposition from the affected community garnered backing from evidence provided  by state forest officials. They revealed that the proposed project site was situated in the heart of an ecologically sensitive area. The officials told NGT that the site fell within the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, and overlapped an ecosensitive zone of another protected wildlife area, Karikili Birds Sanctuary. Environmental law prohibits certain polluting industries from operating within wildlife sanctuaries and their ecosensitive areas. 

In October 2023, the NGT asked the Environment ministry about the steps they took to hold the environmental clearance. They also questioned if the clearance for expansion would continue and whether the ministry would reconsider either withdrawing or pausing it. 

In February 2024, with its hands tied because of the NGT direction, the government put the company’s expansion plans on hold. 

ICRA, the ratings company, notes that SPLL, the subsidiary of Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Limited which was behind political donations, closely works with its parent company.

ICRA also expressed concerns about Sun Pharma’s environmental record. In a rating note on March 4, 2024, ICRA stated that the two firms are “exposed to tightening environmental regulations regarding the breach of and pollution norms, which can lead to an increase in operating costs and new capacity instalment costs.”