Is the Tamil Nadu govt order to shut down Sterlite plant legally standing?

While the state says the order was based on the pollution control board’s findings, the opposition and activists doubt its legal strength

By Akshit Sangomla
Published: Wednesday 30 May 2018

District collector Sandeep Nanduri speaking to the press after sealing Sterlite plant and says that the shut down is permanent. Credit: Akshit SangomlaTwo days after the Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi was permanently shut down on the orders of the Tamil Nadu government, activists and politicians are voicing concern about the legal strength of the order itself.

The government has said that it has based its order on the irregularities found by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). But since none of these irregularities from the present or from the past have been mentioned in its order, politicians are questioning its legality. 

MK Stalin of the DMK has in fact termed it an eye wash as reported by The Hindu.

Many have also questioned the legal standing of the TNPCB’s order of April 9 based on which the government has directed the current shut down and sealing of Sterlite's copper smelting plant. 

“The TNPCB order, dated April 9, 2018, is designed to fail,” Nityanand Jayaraman, an activist who has been following the issue told Down To Earth. According to him, Sterlite will appeal against it in court, most probably in the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

On Tuesday, the Tamil Nadu government's State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) also went ahead and cancelled the land (342.22 acres) allotted to Sterlite for its expansion plans. 

The managing director of SIPCOT, in a statement, said the land allotment is being cancelled on account of concerns about pollution and health and in wake of the series of protests staged by locals.

Reacting to the steps taken by the government, sources at Vedanta have also told news agency Reuters that the company might challenge the current shutdown in a court of law once the current situation comes back to normal. Sterlite had not been allowed an opportunity to present its case and take corrective measures, said sources.

On the other hand, the National Human Rights Commission is looking into the issue of police firing on protestors on May 22. It has directed its director general to send a delegation of officials consisting of a senior superintendent of police and three officers of the rank of deputy superintendent of police to Thoothukudi to conduct an inquiry.

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