SC To Hear On Jan 29 Vedanta’s Plea To Reopen Sterlite Plant

The Supreme Court fixed for hearing on January 29 Vedanta’s plea seeking an interim order allowing it to open the Sterlite plant at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.

The state government and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, Vaiko, who was present in the court on Thursday (24), opposed Vedanta’s request, saying it cannot be done unless pollution norms are complied with.

Vaiko also submitted to the court that people were killed in police firing during a protest against the plant in May last year.

To this, the bench of justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha objected to his statements and said he should focus on legal aspects of the case and not digress from the main issue.

Vaiko, however, continued. He said he represents the people of the area and blood was split on streets.

“You please keep your voice modulated. Don’t shout at the court. We will not hear your speeches. You can go on your own trip or stick to answering our questions. We hear legal arguments here. Come straight away to the point,” the bench said.

The court initially indicated it may pass an interim order directing the state government to open the plant and provide electricity if the company complies with the conditions laid down by the National Green Tribunal to curb pollution. But the court later deferred the plea for hearing on January 29, along with the appeal filed by Tamil Nadu against the December 15 NGT order setting aside the government’s decision to close the plant. The NGT had said saying the state government’s decision was “non sustainable” and “unjustified”.

At the outset, the bench had asked senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for Vedanta, what were their immediate grievances. Sundaram said they were not being provided electricity and the company can only comply with the conditions laid down by NGT if there was electricity to operate. He said it takes 30 to 60 days for the plant to start production. The court was hearing a plea by Vedanta group seeking a direction to Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to implement the NGT order.

On January 8, the apex court paved the way to re-open the plant by refusing to stay the green tribunal order. It also stayed the December 21 decision of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court which had ordered status quo with respect to re-opening the plant.  The top court also sought response from Vedanta on the state government’s appeal against the NGT order to reopen the plant.

At least 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 last year when police opened fire on people protesting against the environment pollution being caused by the unit. Six days later, the Tamil Nadu government ordered the state pollution control board to seal and “permanently” close the plant.