SC pulls up Sterlite, extends relief for copper smelter plant

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 20 2010, 04:55am hrs
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the London-listed Vedanta group company to give details about the steps being taken by it to comply with the environmental norms at Sterlites copper smelting plant in Tuticorin. The Madras high court had last month ordered immediate closure of the plant for violation of pollution control and environment norms and also asked the company to pay compensation to its workmen.

A bench headed by Justice R V Raveendran while continuing its interim stay on the high court judgment asked the ministry of environment and forests, the state government, state pollution control board and others to state as to why Sterlite should not be allowed to continue its operations at its plant. However, the Bench flayed Sterlite for not producing the full National Environmental Research Institutes (Neri) report, on the basis of which the high court had decided the matter, but submitting the report that favoured it.

The high court had cited the Neri report that the company was located within 25 km of Gulf of Mannar, which was declared a National Park in 1986. Besides asking the company to submit Neri reports of November 17, 1998 and March 2005 and latest environment assessment reports, it also directed the company to file an affidavit giving details of the steps taken to comply with various directions issued from time to time by state authorities and others and undertakings given in this regard particularly for disposal of solid waste in an unreachable manner.

The court posted the matter for hearing in the second week of December. The court also observed that the state government cannot close a running mill like this. Senior counsel V Prakash, appearing for National Trust for Clean Environment, an NGO, argued that the plant had led to ground water contamination and the company had also failed to comply with the high court directions that allowed it to reopen the plant only after it acquired land to dump solid waste in an unreachable manner.