Extends stay on High Court judgment

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved verdict on Sterlite Industries' interim application seeking a stay on the operation of the Madras High Court judgment ordering closure of its copper plant at Tuticorin and discharge of its workers on payment of compensation.

A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik extended the interim stay on the High court judgment, granted in October last at the stage of admission of the Sterlite appeal.

Senior counsel C.A. Sundaram, appearing for the company, said there had not been a single violation of pollution or environmental laws after 1996. Permission for the copper plant was given according to the previous norms when it was not in the eco-sensitive zone as per Environment Impact Assessment guidelines.

Senior counsel V. Prakash, for the National Trust for Clean Environment, read out a report of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), pointing out various deficiencies to be addressed by Sterlite, particularly its failure to comply with the norms on solid waste disposal.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Vaiko, one of the petitioners before the High Court, said the pollution caused by the company was posing serious health problems to people at Tuticorin. Groundwater and air had been greatly polluted because of gaseous emissions, he said, and opposed the running of the company without its complying with the NEERI recommendations.

Additional Advocate-General Guru Krishna Kumar, appearing for Tamil Nadu, wanted the company to comply with the NEERI recommendations in a time-bound manner.

Counsel Subramonium Prasad appeared for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.