A man waters plants outside the Indian headquarters of Vedanta Resources Plc, which houses the company’s Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. unit, in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Adeel Halim/Bloomberg News)

Supreme Court Refuses To Allow Vedanta To Restart Thoothukudi Copper Unit

The Supreme Court today refused to allow Vedanta Ltd. to reopen its copper smelter in Tamil Nadu.

A two-judge bench headed by Rohinton Nariman set aside the National Green Tribunal’s order allowing Sterlite Copper to reopen its smelter unit in Thoothukudi.

The judgment doesn’t go into the merits of the case and the dispute in question. It only bars the reopening on the ground that the NGT has no power to directly entertain an appeal against an order passed under Section 18 of the Water Act. The appeal should have been made to the appellate authority provided in the statue and not NGT.
Judgment By Bench Headed By Justice Rohinton Nariman

It’s clear, the judgment said, that no appeal is provided against orders made under Section 18 of the Water Act, and the attempt to bring the NGT in by the backdoor, as it were, would, therefore, have to be rejected.

The apex court said the Anil Agarwal-led mining conglomerate can approach the Madras High Court again to restart the plant, adding that the company can seek expeditious hearing of the case.

The National Green Tribunal on Dec. 15 had asked the Tamil Nadu government to order the “consent to operate” and issue authorisation to handle hazardous substances required for restarting the plant.

The tribunal, in its order, had asked the state government to also restore the electricity supply to the plant subject to it fulfilling certain conditions. The NGT had said that even if there were certain technical breaches by Sterlite Copper, they were trivial in nature and did not warrant an order for closure. The green tribunal had also ordered Vedanta to allocate Rs 100 crore for the environment.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had appealed the tribunal’s verdict in the Supreme Court. The case was heard by a bench headed by Justice Rohinton Nariman.

The dispute between Vedanta and the Tamil Nadu government started in May last year when the government ordered the plant to be closed down.