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Sterlite plant to remain shut till Jan 21: HC orders status quo

In a setback for Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, the Madurai bench of Madras High Court has ordered that status quo be maintained on the matter. This means that the plant cannot be opened till further orders despite Sterlite getting a green signal from the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

The Madras High Court’s order was in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Fathima from Thoothukudi seeking to quash NGT’s verdict which permitted the plant to reopen. The petition gave a brief history of the closure of the plant and also gave details about the proceedings in front of the NGT.  

Justices KK Sasidharan and PD Audikesavalu heard the petition on Friday and ordered that status quo shall be maintained on the issue till further orders. The court also asked the state government if it was going for an appeal against the NGT order in Supreme Court and directed it to respond by January 21, 2019. The court also issued notices to Tamil Nadu government and Vedanta Limited regarding the matter and posted the case for January 21.

The plant was closed by the state government after the people living around the plant in Thoothukudi protested against its planned expansion citing pollution concerns. On the 100th day of the protest, 13 civilians were killed when the police opened fire at the protestors, leading to the Tamil Nadu government issuing orders to shut down the plant. Following this, Vedanta approached the NGT for reopening of the plant. The NGT formed an expert committee headed by former Chief Justice Tarun Agrawal which visited the plant and also conducted public hearings in Thoothukudi and in Chennai.

The committee submitted its final report to NGT in which it recommended the reopening of the plant on certain conditions. The NGT accepted the recommendations of the committee and on December 15 directed the government of Tamil Nadu to resume power supply to the plant. The tribunal also ordered that a committee be constituted to monitor the industrial waste discharged from the plant.

Sterlite’s lawyer had earlier told the committee that the company was willing to spend Rs 100 crore for the welfare of people. NGT, in its final hearing, took a note of it and directed Sterlite to spend the amount within three years for the welfare of the people of Thoothukudi.

On Thursday, Sterlite CEO Ramnath told a TV channel that the plant would be reopened after obtaining the requisite permissions from the district administration and other regulatory bodies.

Source: The News Minute