In a setback to Anil Agarwal-led Sterlite Industries, a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Group, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the company to pay Rs.100 crore as compensation for causing pollution through its copper smelting plant in Tuticorn, Tamil Nadu.
The SC order, however, brought some respite as it refused to direct the plant’s closure as done by the Madras high court in 2010.
Sterlite had moved the top court against a September 28, 2010 HC order shutting down the smelting plant for allegedly failing to comply with environmental norms.
A bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik gave the company three months to deposit the money with the collector of Thoothukudi District.
The amount will be kept in a fixed deposit in a nationalised bank for five years. It would be renewed thereafter.
The interest received would be spent on suitable measures for improving of the environment, including water and soil, around the plant.
The collector will consult the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and get an approval from the state’s environment secretary for the same.
The judgment would have no bearing on TNPCB’s March 30, 2013 direction to shut down the plant in wake of gas leak from it.
The closure order came a week after the leakage that had allegedly caused mild suffocation, sore throat and eye irritation to people residing in the plant’s vicinity.
Sterlite had challenged the directive before the National Green Tribunal on April 1.
The apex court said its decision would not stand in the way of TNPCB to issue fresh directions to close the Sterlite plant for protecting the environment in accordance with law.