The Supreme Court on Monday refused to allow the reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite plant in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu but granted it the liberty to approach the High Court for relief. A bench headed by Justice R F Nariman said it is allowing Tamil Nadu’s appeal against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order only on grounds of maintainability.
The bench said NGT has no jurisdiction to order reopening of the plant.
The court was hearing a plea by Vedanta group seeking a direction to Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to implement the NGT order which had set aside the government’s decision to close the plant.
Vedanta has maintained that the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut down its plant was a political decision. Thirteen 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.
Six days later, the state government had ordered the state pollution control board to seal and permanently close the plant.
The Vedanta group had moved the apex court in January, requesting it to direct the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TN PCB) to implement the NGT order at the earliest. NGT in its final order in mid-December had asked the TN PCB to issue ‘renewal of consent’ to reopen the factory, subject to certain conditions, including compliance of pollution norms.
On December 15, 2018, the NGT set aside the Tamil Nadu government order that directed permanent closure of the group’s plant at Tuticorin. The NGT ordered Vedanta to spend an amount of Rs 100 crore within three years for the welfare of inhabitants in the area.