Supreme Court reserves order on Sterlite plant

The company sought to continue operating its copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu

By Sumana Narayanan
Published: Friday 30 September 2011

On September 6, the Supreme Court reserved its judgement on Sterlite Industries' special leave petition, seeking a stay on the Madras High Court order to shut its copper smelting plant in southern Tamil Nadu. The closure order was given last year over claims that the plant had violated environmental norms.

The apex court's decision to reserve its order follows its interim order on October 1, 2010 by which it had stayed the High Court's September 28, 2010 decision to close the plant in Thoothukudi.

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The high court’s ruling follows a petition filed by the National Trust for Clean Environment in 1996. While in the apex court, Sterlite claimed that much has happened since the petition was filed and they are now compliant with the environmental norms. The company also claimed that the ruling was based on a 2005 report of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), which is now old.

“What they (company) failed to disclose was that they do not have consent to operate. There are several show cause notices issued by the state pollution control board that are still pending,” says V Prakash, advocate for the National Trust for Clean Environment. There is also a NEERI report of May 2011 which indicts the company. “During the plant’s inspection, 18 ponds holding toxic effluent were found. These were in violation of solid waste disposal norms,” adds Prakash.

With neither the pollution control board, NEERI nor the high court giving the company a clean chit, it remains to be seen if the apex court will uphold the high court closure order.

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