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SC to hear Tamil Nadu's plea against NGT order to reopen Sterlite plant

January 03, 2019 14:36 IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear on January 8 Tamil Nadu's appeal against the National Green Tribunal order to reopen Vedanta Ltd's Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul said the case will be heard next week.

Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for Vedanta, said Tamil Nadu has filed an appeal against the NGT order so the case be heard urgently as they are facing problems with storage of sulphuric acid in the plant.

 

Tamil Nadu had moved the apex court on Wednesday against the NGT verdict that set aside the state government order to close the plant at Tuticorin.

At least 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 last year when police opened fire on a large crowd of people protesting against environment pollution being allegedly caused by the plant.

The plea, filed through advocate M Yogesh Kanna, had said that the NGT has "erroneously" set aside various orders passed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board last year with regard to the Sterlite plant.

It had said that the tribunal had consequentially directed the TNPCB to pass fresh orders of renewal of consent and issue authorisation to handle hazardous substances to the Vedanta Limited.

"The final impugned judgment and order dated December 15, 2018 is liable to be set aside by this Court as the Tribunal failed to consider the data, document and evidence furnished by TNPCB to prove that the respondent no.1 (Vedanta) herein had irreversibly polluted the ground water in and around Thoothukudi District," the petition had said while seeking a stay on the NGT verdict.

It had held that non furnishing of ground water analysis report is a "technical breach and is trivial in nature", the plea said.

"The said finding of the Tribunal shows non-application of mind as the appellants (TN and others) herein have furnished sufficient evidence to show that the respondent no.1 had polluted the ground water and therefore the respondent herein had not furnished the ground water analysis report," it had added.

The state government further said that it had raised various contentions before the committee appointed by the NGT but the committee failed to consider those contentions as well as documents while preparing its report.

On December 15, the NGT had set aside the Tamil Nadu government order for closure of the Sterlite copper plant, saying it was "non sustainable" and "unjustified".

It had asked the TNPCB to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances, subject to appropriate conditions for protection of environment in accordance with law within three weeks.

The NGT had allowed the appeal of the company challenging the plant's closure.

The green panel said the company should spend within three years Rs 100 crore on welfare of inhabitants of the area as it had offered to do.

It also suggested that the company take steps for safeguarding the environment, like creating a dedicated website where the stakeholders can lodge their environment-related grievances.

The Tamil Nadu government had, on May 28, ordered the state pollution control board to seal and "permanently" close the mining group's copper plant following violent protests over pollution concerns.

In April, the TNPCB had rejected Sterlite's plea to renew the 'Consent To Operate' certification, saying the company had not complied with the stipulated conditions.

The tribunal had earlier set up an independent committee to look into the allegations of environmental pollution by Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper factory.

The committee, headed by former Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Tarun Agrawal, had said that no notice or opportunity of hearing was given to Vedanta before the closure of the plant.

On August 9, the tribunal had allowed Vedanta to enter the administrative unit inside its Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.

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