Law

Sterlite Copper: Tamil Nadu Moves SC Against Order to Reopen Plant

The plea said that the National Green Tribunal has "erroneously" set aside various orders passed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) last year with regard to the Sterlite plant.

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday against the NGT verdict that set aside the state government’s order to close Vedanta Ltd’s Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.

At least 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 last year when police opened fire on a large crowd of people protesting against environmental pollution allegedly caused by the plant.

The plea, filed through advocate M. Yogesh Kanna, said the National Green Tribunal has “erroneously” set aside various orders passed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) last year with regard to the Sterlite plant.

It said the tribunal had consequentially directed TNPCB to pass fresh orders of renewal of consent and issue authorisation to handle hazardous substances to the Vedanta Limited.

Also Read: In Setback for TN Govt, NGT-Appointed Panel Says Closure of Sterlite Plant ‘Not Justified’

“The final impugned judgment and order dated December 15, 2018, is liable to be set aside by this Court as the Tribunal failed to consider the data, document and evidence furnished by TNPCB to prove that the respondent no.1 (Vedanta) herein had irreversibly polluted the groundwater in and around Thoothukudi District,” the petition said while seeking a stay on the NGT verdict.

It had held that the groundwater analysis report was not furnished is a “technical breach and is trivial in nature”, the plea said.

“The said finding of the Tribunal shows non-application of mind as the appellants (TN and others) herein have furnished sufficient evidence to show that the respondent no.1 had polluted the groundwater and therefore the respondent herein had not furnished the groundwater analysis report,” it added.

The state government added it raised various contentions before the committee appointed by the NGT, but the committee failed to consider them or the documents while preparing its report.

“The NGT relied upon the report of the Committee in passing the impugned order and therefore liable to be set aside. The NGT had not perused the voluminous records filed by the appellants herein,” it said.

Also Read: NGT Committee Finds Sterlite Violated Laws but Pleads for Leniency

On December 15, the NGT had set aside the Tamil Nadu government order for closure of mining company Vedanta Ltd’s Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin saying it was “non-sustainable” and “unjustified”.

NGT had allowed the appeal of the company challenging the plant’s closure.

The green panel said the company should spend within three years Rs 100 crore on the 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.

Also Read: HC Orders Status Quo, Restrains Sterlite From Reopening Copper Plant

The Tamil Nadu government had, on May 28, ordered the state pollution control board to seal and “permanently” close the mining group’s copper plant following violent protests over pollution concerns.

In April, TNPCB had rejected Sterlite’s plea to renew the ‘Consent To Operate’ certification, saying the company had not complied with the stipulated conditions.

The tribunal had earlier set up an independent committee to look into the allegations of environmental pollution by the Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper factory.

The committee, headed by former Meghalaya high court Chief Justice Tarun Agrawal, had said that no notice or opportunity of hearing was given to Vedanta before the closure of the plant.

On August 9, the tribunal had allowed Vedanta to enter the administrative unit inside its Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.

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