Madras High Court dismisses Vedanta's plea to reopen Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi
By Vivek Raj | Galatta | Aug 18, 2020, 11:30 am
The Madras High Court on Tuesday dismissed the plea to reopen Vedanta Limited's Sterlite copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi. The verdict was announced by a division bench of Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan after the reserving orders in the case were issued seven months back. All the petitions filed by Vedanta have been dismissed by the court.
The Tamil Nadu government's closure order against the Sterlite copper plant was challenged by Vedanta Limited who had moved the court on May 28, 2018.
Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan, in January 2020, reserved their verdict on a group of cases filed by Vedanta Limited in regard to the reopening of its Thoothukudi Sterlite copper smelting plant, which has remained closed since April 9, 2018 after the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) refused the Consent to Operate (CTO) for the plant, while also issuing a notice for the shutdown and disconnection of power supply to the plant. In their statement, the company has claimed a loss of Rs 5 crore every day after the closure.
A reservation on the order was issued after arguments by lawyers for a period of 36 full days.
The Tamil Nadu government in May 2018 had ordered the existing Tuticorin copper smelter plant to be sealed permanently after 13 anti-Sterlite protestors were shot down in police firing on May 22, 2018. Since then, protests have been carried out by the locals against the factory for several years over alleged emissions from the plant. The situation flared up after the company announced that the plant's capacity would be doubled up to 800,000 tonnes at an estimated investment of Rs 2,400 crore.
In December 2018, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had as a response to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), repealed the Tamil Nadu government's order and issued a direction to the TNPCB for the renewal of the CTO subject to compliance with certain directions as specified in the order.
Having said that, the Supreme Court in February 2019 had put away the NGT's order for the reason of maintainability and permitted the company to file a writ petition before the Madras High Court challenging the orders, while also seeking interim relief stating that the plant had remained closed since March-end 2018.
A writ petition was then filed at the Madras High Court by the company in regard to the numerous orders passed against it in 2018 and 2013 and the matter was pending adjudication after which the hearing came to a conclusion on January 8, 2020.
In their argument, Vedanta stated that the plant's closure was primarily a reaction to the police firing that had occurred on May 22, 2018. The company also went on to allege that the state government including the TNPCB failed to come up with any legitimate evidence to prove the damages caused by the plant to the environment. On the other end of the spectrum, the government countered by stating that the CTO was retracted prior to the firing incident and added that the plant was contributing to problems in the environment.