Supreme Court paves the way for re-opening of Vedanta's copper plant in TN

Published: Jan 08, 2019, 20:58 IST | IANS | New Delhi

The protests turned violent, resulting in the death of 13 people in police firing on May 22-23 in Tuticorin

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday paved the way, for now, for the re-opening of the Vedanta's Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu's as it put on hold the status quo order passed by the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court.

The state 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 over pollution concerns.

The protests turned violent, resulted in the death of 13 people in police firing on May 22-23 in Tuticorin.

While staying the December 21, 2018 status quo order, the Supreme Court bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha said, "The directions that have been passed by the National Green Tribunal, by its judgement (on December 15), will continue to subsist."

However, the court today said the operation of the directions of the green tribunal would be subject to the outcome of an appeal by the Vedanta group against the High Court order.

The High Court had on December 21 ordered 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.

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 court on Tuesday issued notice to Vedanta on a plea by Tamil Nadu government challenging the December 15 NGT order directing the TNPCB to pass a fresh order permitting "renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous waste", within three weeks.

The Tamil Nadu government had 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.

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 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 groundwater quality as mandated by the TNPCB, and give timelines for "effective compliance" of the conclusions of the committee.

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