Vedanta welcomed the Supreme Court’s refusal to entertain Tamil Nadu government’s plea against the NGT’s order allowing the mining major’s access to the administrative unit inside its closed Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin and said its appeal is already scheduled for hearing before the National Green Tribunal on Monday. “We welcome the Honourable Supreme Court’s decision directing that both the maintainability and merit of our case should be heard and decided by the National Green Tribunal. Our appeal is already scheduled for hearing before the National Green Tribunal on August 20th 2018,” Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper said in a statement.
The apex court today asked the NGT to “finally decide” the matter. A bench comprising Justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra said that the NGT would hear the matter on merits and also on the issue of maintainability raised by the state government. “We may clarify that NGT may continue to hear the matter on merits and finally decide the matter on maintainability also. It is open for the state to argue on maintainability after which the tribunal will give its findings,” the bench said. The green tribunal had on August 9 allowed Vedanta to enter its administrative unit inside its Sterlite copper plant, observing that no environmental damage would be caused by allowing access to the administrative section.
The state government had challenged the NGT’s order in the apex court. Sterlite’s factory had made headlines in March 2013 when a gas leak 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 appealed to the NGT which had overturned the government’s order.
The state had moved the Supreme Court against it and the case is still pending. The Supreme Court had then ordered the company to pay Rs 100 crore as compensation for polluting the environment. Following the latest protests and police firing, the plant was closed on March 27. After Sterlite announced its plans to expand Tuticorin plant, villagers around it started fresh protests that continued for over 100 days, culminating in the May 22 police firing on protestors that claimed 13 lives and left scores injured.