SC refuses to stay NGT order to reopen Sterlite plant in TN
09 January 2019
The Supreme Court has refused to stay the National green Tribunal’s (NGT) order allowing Sterlite to resume operations at its copper smelter at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu, even as it sought response from Vedanta plc, the parent company of Sterlite, on the state government’s appeal against the green tribunal’s order.
The SC order, which comes days after the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court ordered that Sterlite should not be opened till 21 January, comes as a setback to the Tamil Nadu government.
“The directions that have been passed by the National Green Tribunal, by its judgment dated 15.12.2018, will continue to subsist and will be subject to the ultimate outcome of the appeal,” the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice RF Nariman said in its order.
The apex court, however, asked Sterlite to fulfil all the conditions imposed by the NGT in its 15 December order and gave it three weeks time to comply with the conditions imposed by the NGT. It also gave the company three weeks time to fulfil NGT’s conditions before resumption of operations.
Hearings in the case will continue once Vedanta files a response on the matter.
The order came on an appeal filed by the government of Tamil Nadu against the NGT order. In its appeal, the state government had argued that the NGT did not have a jurisdiction in the matter and had sought a stay on its order.
The Tamil Nadu government had in May last year issued orders to close the plant after the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board refused to renew operating licence to the plant citing violation of environmental norms.
The closure of the plant also comes in the wake of violent protests by local residents seeking closure of the unit, which, they claimed, endangered their lives.
It was on May 28, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) ordered the closure and disconnection of electricity supply under provisions of Section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and Section 31A of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1971.
Vedanta moved the NGT against the closure orders. The NGT formed a three-member expert committee headed by former Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court Tarun Agarwal to probe the matter.
The NGT followed the expert committee’s opinion that the company may be allowed to operate the plant as long as it is willing to abide by the pollution control norms and take precautions and that the state government cannot shut down plants based on hyper-technicalities.
NGT order also directs Sterlite to spend Rs100 cr on welfare of the locals
The government of Tamil Nadu in its submission to the Supreme Court said the NGT has no right to form any committee to look into the matter and that the observations made by the committee were not based on facts.