Madras High Court Begins Hearing On Vedanta Plea Against Tuticorin Plant Closure
After a three-month gap, the Madras High Court on Monday resumed hearing pleas moved by Vedanta Ltd.-owned Sterlite Copper challenging closure of its copper smelter unit in Tuticorin.
Opposing the decision of the state government to order closure of the copper smelter unit, senior counsel Aryama Sundaram contended it was ill-motivated and the government has not issued any direction to clear the alleged pollution committed by the unit.
But if Vedanta comes to court asking to be allowed to maintain the plant, the state objects to that as well, he added.
"The entire arguments made by the state against Sterlite are made based on outdated reports. All their arguments were without any documentary basis. When the court ask for documents, it gives reports of 1997, 2002, and 2004 to substantiate their claim," he contended.
All allegations made on the basis of such reports were already considered by the Supreme Court in 2013 and the same cannot be re-agitated now before the high court that too when the law itself has changed, Vedanta's counsel said.
Pointing to a report of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board dated Feb. 27, 2018, Sundaram submitted it shows that the board had in fact recommended that Sterlite can be given consent to operate for five years.
But on April 9, 2018 the board took a U-turn and rejected Vedanta's application for consent to operate the plant, he said.
Recording the submissions, a special bench of Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Bhavani Subbaroyan adjourned the pleas to Tuesday for further hearing.
On May 28, 2018 the state government ordered closure of the copper unit to 'protect and improve the environment and for larger public interest'.
The closure order was followed by massive protests by anti-Sterlite groups which ended in police firing killing 13 protesters.
Challenging the order, Vedanta moved the high court.
Opposing the plea, the state argued Sterlite is a 'chronic defaulter' and that unrestrained pollution is the standard modus operation of the company.
"Their global malpractices, environmental and human rights concerns make it a party unfit for being granted any discretionary relief at an interim stage by the court," the state said opposing Sterlite's plea seeking access to the company's premises in Tuticorin for care and maintenance of the plant.