Thoothukudi Sterlite plant: Apex court denies interim relief to allow re-opening
The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied interim relief to mining giant Vedanta Limited by refusing to allow immediate re-opening of its Sterlite Copper smelting plant at Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi.
The plant has been shut since May 2018 after a police firing killed 13 people during a protest against environmental pollution allegedly caused by the plant.
A bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman, posted the matter for a detailed hearing in January 2021. The bench was hearing a plea filed by Vedanta against a Madras High Court order refusing to allow re-opening of the plant.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Vedanta, argued that wastage of national resources can be stopped by allowing a short three-month run of the plant.
“This plant started in 1997, it was providing job to 4,000 people, and indirectly to 20,000 people and trickle-down dependants are more than 2 lakh”, Singhvi said, adding that its supplying 36 per cent of the country’s copper needs.
Now, post the closure of the plant, India is becoming dependant on copper imports, he said. There is a preconceived decision to not allow the plant to run, Singhvi contended.
The senior counsel said that NEERI had made an environmental impact report and gave 30 recommendations, 2012 report shows compliance of 29 out of 30.
The counsel, appearing for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, submitted that Vedanta is trying to mislead the court and added that the industry has been polluting.
The order passed by the Tamil Nadu government was for the permanent closure of the Sterlite plant and conditions have worsened after the court permitted them to start partial operations, the counsel told the court.
The Tamil Nadu government submitted that reports of the pollution control board clearly show the plant has been consistently polluting. At this stage, interim arrangements to reopen the plant cannot be given particularly since the High Court had upheld the Board’s order for closing the plant, the counsel of the state government said.
The Madras High Court had, on August 18, refused to allow the reopening of the plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi, which has remained closed since April 2018 and disposed of the plea filed by Vedanta challenging the closure of the plant.