Millennium Post

HC stays TN order cancelling land allotment to Vedanta copper plant

Madurai: The Madras High Court Wednesday granted interim stay on a state government order cancelling land allotment of 342.2 acres to the Vedanta group's copper plant in Tuticorin following protests against the unit and killing of 13 people in police firing in May.

Justice V Parthibhan ordered notice to the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) chairman, seeking his explanation by October 25 and posted the case for hearing on that date.

Government advocate S Angappan took notice on behalf of the SIPCOT chairman and other officials.

The judge said it appeared that the chairman had passed the "impugned order out of haste disregarding the established legal norms that normally followed in such matters ostensibly on the basis of public perception".

The public perception in the normal circumstances ought to be subordinated to the fundamental and constitutional rights of the citizen of this country, unless such perception is premised on a realistic basis and seeks to achieve high constitutional goal. Apparently from the impugned order, nothing of the sort could be inferred, the judge said.

Petitioner Satyapriya, an official of the Vedanta Ltd, (Sterlite Copper Unit) at SICOT Industrial complex, submitted that the Centre had given formal approval to the firm's proposal for development, operation and maintenance of the sector specific special economic zone.

"The chairman can cancel the allotment only if there was non-compliance of terms and conditions of the allotment order or lease deed, including non-payment of dues," it was submitted. The Environment and Forest ministry had accorded environmental clearance for the unit's expansion, "expressly recording that public hearing (PH) was not required as the project is located in the notified SIPCOT Industrial area".

The petitioner claimed that the chairman had earlier asked the company to commence construction activities for the expansion projects and furnish a detailed implementation plan.

The cancellation of land allotment for its expansion project for manufacture of copper anodes, phosphoric acid and sulphuric acid was "illegal and arbitrary".

The order was issued even without the petitioner committing any breach or default. No independent inquiry was conducted before cancelling the order.

The abrupt cancellation on May 29 without any intimation was contrary to the procedure previously adopted, the petitioner said. The plant would generate employment for 25,000 people and Rs 1,100 crore was invested in the development, it was submitted.

"As the allotment of land for the proposed expansion has been made by SIPCOT, in larger public interest, the land allotment made by SIPCOT for proposed expansion of copper smelter plant (Phase-2) by Vedanta Ltd is hereby cancelled," SIPCOT said in its communication to Vedanta group on May 29.

The cancellation of land allotment for the proposed expansion of the Sterlite Copper plant came a day after the state government ordered the state Pollution Control Board to "seal and permanently close" the existing unit.

"The cancellation of allotment of 342.22 acres of land has been made in larger public interest and this has been communicated to the company," an official release had said.

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