Plea to reopen Tamil Nadu Sterlite unit: SC decides on January 29

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Published: January 25, 2019 12:19:17 AM

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will decide on Tuesday the issue related to reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter in Tamil Nadu.

sterlite unit, sterline plant, reopen sterlite plantPlea to reopen Sterlite unit: SC decides on Jan 29

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will decide on Tuesday the issue related to reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter in Tamil Nadu.

A bench led by justice Rohinton Nariman while hearing the company’s plea observed that it was inclined to order de-sealing of its plant and also ask the state government to restore electricity supply to the plant at Tuticorin.

The court was hearing Vedanta’s plea alleging that the Tamil Nadu government has not allowed it to enter its premise despite a green tribunal’s December order that allowed reopening of the plant.

However, the Tamil Nadu government opposed reopening of the plant, saying the Vedanta’s petition is a clever ploy to avoid fulfilling of the pre-conditions imposed by the tribunal for reopening of the plant. The state government said that the tribunal failed to consider the data, document and evidence furnished by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to prove that the company had irreversibly polluted the ground water in and around Tuticorin district.

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Even TNPCB sought compliance report from Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper in response to their application seeking renewal of Consent to Operate (CTO).

TN leader Vaiko also opposed any such reopening of the copper smelter plant and accused the state government of “running with the hare and hunting with the hound”.

Vedanta, on the other hand, told the bench that the environmental measures that the NGT had asked it to take in its Tuticorin plant were possible only after the the plant becomes functional.

Vedanta’s plant was closed down last year in May after the state pollution control board had ruled that the plant was polluting the soil and water of the nearby areas.

Vedanta has maintained that the Tamil Nadu government decision to shut down its plant was a political decision. As many as 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 last year when police opened fire on a crowd protesting against the plant they blamed for environmental pollution. Several people were also arrested for rioting, burning vehicles in the premises of the collectorate, pelting stones and damaging public property. This had prompted the Tamil Nadu government on May 28 to order TNPCB to seal and “permanently” close the mining group’s copper plant.

The green tribunal on December 15 while setting aside the state government’s order to shut down the plant had directed TNPCB to issue a fresh order of renewal of consent for the smelter within three weeks, thus paving the way for reopening the plant. The tribunal had also asked Sterlite to take a series of steps for “safeguarding environment”. The factory was directed to spend `2.5 crore for its faulty handling of 3.5 lakh tonne copper slag near the factory. The tribunal said the company should spend within three years `100 crore on welfare of inhabitants of the area as it had offered to do. It also suggested that the company take steps for safeguarding environment, like creating a dedicated website where the stakeholders can lodge their environment related grievances.

The Sterlite plant had made headlines in March 2013 when a gas leak had led to the death of one person and injuries to several others, after which then chief minister J Jayalalithaa had ordered its closure.

The company had then appealed to the NGT which had overturned the government order. The state had then moved the top court, which in April 2013 had allowed the Sterlite copper smelter plant to function in Tuticorin in public interest, but asked the company to pay `100 crore as compensation for polluting land and water by running it without approvals.

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