Supreme Court directs Vedanta to approach the Madras high court for interim relief in the Sterlite plant reopening case
NGT should not have passed the order for reopening of the copper plant as it lacked jurisdiction to do so, says Supreme Court
New Delhi: In a major setback to Vedanta Resources Plc, the Supreme Court set aside Monday the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that allowed Sterlite Industries Ltd to reopen its copper plant at Tuticorin.
The order was set aside on the grounds of maintainability.
In the latest twist to the battle pitting environmentalists against the multinational firm, a bench comprising justices R.F. Nariman and Vineet Saran asked Vedanta to approach the Madras high court for interim relief. It was held that NGT should not have passed the order for reopening of the copper plant as it lacked jurisdiction to do so.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had approached the apex court against the 15 December NGT order, arguing that it was “erroneous" and passed without application of mind to the evidence furnished by the state government to show that the Vedanta unit had polluted groundwater.
“The tribunal failed to consider the data, document and evidence furnished by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to prove that Vedanta had irreversibly polluted the groundwater in and around Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) district," the petition said.
The NGT had ordered the reopening of the plant, months after it was closed by the state government in the aftermath of clashes between protesting environmentalists and the police, killing 13 demonstrators.
The NGT had also 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 the environment within three weeks.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel had said that the Tamil Nadu government’s order issued under Section 18 (1)(b) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, could not be referred to as an independent order “but relied upon and endorsing the views of the TNPCB, which is under challenge, and are not sufficient for ordering closure or refusal to grant even consent".
“If there are no other materials for the government of Tamil Nadu to arrive at the conclusion of closure on the ground of irreversible pollution being caused to the environment allowing the unit to function, then it cannot be said to be a policy decision to close down the industry permanently. If any order was passed based on the order by the Pollution Control Board, without independent application of mind and arbitrarily, then that can also be incidentally considered by the tribunal for the purpose of deciding the question of legality of that order," the NGT had said in its order.
PTI contributed to this story.
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