SC to hear Vedanta plea on reopening of copper plant in TN
New Delhi: The Supreme Court will hear on January 8 a plea by Vedanta group challenging the Madras High Court order directing status quo as it existed before the National Green Tribunal's (NGT) set aside the Tamil Nadu government's decision to shut down the Sterlite's copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the matter would be listed for hearing on Tuesday (January 8) after senior counsel C.A. Sundram mentioned the plea for an early hearing.
Sundram told the court that they have succeeded before the green tribunal.
The Madurai bench of Madras High Court had on December 21, 2018, ordered the status quo as existed prior to the NGT's December 15 order by which the green tribunal had set aside the order of the state government shutting down the copper smelting plant for causing irreversible water pollution.
The high court had restrained Vedanta group from taking any step for the reopening of the copper smelting plant.
Directing the status quo till January 21, 2019, the high court had asked the state government to tell it if it intended to file an appeal against the NGT order for the re-opening of the plant.
The high court order on maintaining status quo had come on a petition by Tuticorin resident Fathima opposing the re-opening of the copper smelting plant.
The Tamil Nadu government on January 2 moved the top court challenging the NGT order for reopening the Thoothukudi plant. It has contended that the plant has caused irreversible water pollution.
The state government has asserted that it had furnished "sufficient evidence" to the NGT to show the operation of the copper smelting plant had "polluted the ground water".
The Tamil Nadu government had on May 28, 2018 ordered the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to seal and "permanently" close the plant in the wake of violent protests by the people over pollution concerns.
The protests, which turned violent, resulted in the death of 13 people in a police firing on May 22-23 in Tuticorin.
Setting aside the order shutting down the plant permanently, the green tribunal by its December 15 order had directed the TNPCB to pass a fresh order permitting "renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous waste", within three weeks.
Directing TNPCB to pass the said order, the NGT's principal bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had said that Vedanta would be entitled to restoration of electricity for the operations of its copper smelting plant.
The Tribunal had said that the restoration of electricity would be subject to the compliance of its directions on Vedanta spending Rs 100 crore on projects like water supply, hospitals, health services and skill development in the area.
The green tribunal had also directed that Vedanta would create a dedicated and interactive website where stakeholders could lodge their environment-related grievances, regular monitoring of the ground water quality as mandated by the TNPCB, and give timelines for "effective compliance" of the conclusions of the committee.