New Delhi: Tamil Nadu moved the Supreme Court Wednesday against the NGT (National Green Tribunal) verdict that set aside the state government order to close Vedanta Ltd’s Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.
At least 13 people were killed and several injured on 22 May last year when police opened fire on a large crowd of people protesting against environment pollution being allegedly caused by the plant.
The plea, filed through advocate M. Yogesh Kanna, said the NGT has “erroneously" set aside various orders passed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) last year with regard to the Sterlite plant.
It said the tribunal had consequentially directed TNPCB to pass fresh orders of renewal of consent and issue authorization to handle hazardous substances to the Vedanta Ltd.
“The final impugned judgement and order dated 15 December 2018 is liable to be set aside by this court as the Tribunal failed to consider the data, document and evidence furnished by TNPCB to prove that the respondent No.1 (Vedanta) herein had irreversibly polluted the ground water in and around Thoothukudi district," the petition said while seeking a stay on the NGT verdict. It had held that non furnishing of ground water analysis report is a “technical breach and is trivial in nature", the plea said.
“The said finding of the Tribunal shows non-application of mind as the appellants (TN and others) herein have furnished sufficient evidence to show that the respondent No.1 had polluted the ground water and therefore the respondent herein had not furnished the ground water analysis report," it added. The state government further said that it had raised various contentions before the committee appointed by the NGT but the committee failed to consider those contentions as well as documents while preparing its report. “The NGT relied upon the report of the committee in passing the impugned order and therefore liable to be set aside. The NGT had not perused the voluminous records filed by the appellants herein," it said.
On 15 December, the NGT had set aside the Tamil Nadu government order for closure of mining company Vedanta Ltd’s Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin saying it was “non sustainable" and “unjustified".
It had asked the TNPCB to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent and authorization to handle hazardous substances, subject to appropriate conditions for protection of environment in accordance with law within three weeks.
NGT had allowed the appeal of the company challenging the plant’s closure.
The green panel said the company should spend within three years ₹ 100 crore on welfare of inhabitants of the area as it had offered to do. It also suggested that the company take steps for safeguarding environment, like creating a dedicated website where the stakeholders can lodge their environment related grievances.
The Tamil Nadu government had, on 28 May, ordered the state pollution control board to seal and “permanently" close the mining group’s copper plant following violent protests over pollution concerns.
In April, TNPCB had rejected Sterlite’s plea to renew the ‘consent to operate’ certification, saying the company had not complied with the stipulated conditions.
The tribunal had earlier set up an independent committee to look into the allegations of environmental pollution by Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper factory.
On 9 August, the tribunal had allowed Vedanta to enter the administrative unit inside its Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.