Sterlite Copper in Thoothukudi to remain shut: Madras HC

It also dismissed all petitions for the plant to resume operations

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 18 August 2020

The Madras High Court upheld the decision of the Tamil Nadu government to shut down Sterlite Copper, a unit of Vedanta Ltd, in Thoothukudi. It also dismissed the company’s plea to resume operations.

The bench of Justices TS Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan said the plant could not be allowed to reopen. The order would have been out in March itself but for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Justices Sivagnanam, said.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, on April 9, 2018, rejected the Consent to Operate for the plant and issued a direction for closure and disconnection of power supply at the plant. It cited Section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and Section 31A of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

The month of May was full of demonstrations as residents of the villages around the plant protested against it. On May 22, 2018, events took a tragic turn as police opened fire, killing 12 people. The next day, another person was killed in police firing. On May 24, the Tamil Nadu government sealed the copper smelter.

In June, the company approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT), challenging the order for closure of the plant. The tribunal formed a committee in August 2018 to look into the issue. In December, it dismissed the state government’s order to seal the plant.

Following this, the Tamil Nadu government appealed the NGT’s decision in the Supreme Court. In February 2019, the Supreme Court set aside the NGT’s order to reopen the plant. It said the tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to do so.

In June 2019, Sterlite approached the Madras High Court for interim relief on the matter, as advised by the Supreme Court. The court had reserved a judgement in the matter in January this year.

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