Political leaders in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday welcomed the judgement of the Madras High Court refusing to allow the re-opening of the Sterlite Copper Unit in Thoothukudi.
Deputy Chief Minister and AIADMK co-ordinator, O. Panneerselvam welcomed the High Court’s verdict, upholding the State government’s decision to seal the Sterlite plant, which was “a reflection of the sentiments of crores of people.”
In a statement, DMK president M.K. Stalin said the judgement had saved mankind and urged Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami to convene a Cabinet meeting and adopt a resolution welcoming the order of the High Court.
He said the people would not forget the 13 lives lost in the police firing when residents had launched a protest in a democratic manner against the unit that was causing danger to the environment. “Though the AIADMK government resorted to police firing in an inhuman manner, the Court has stood by the people and pronounced a judgement. I bow my head in respect of the order,” Mr. Stalin said.
He said the government should make use of the judgement and adopt a resolution in the Cabinet for the closure of the unit. “The government should also file a caveat in the Supreme Court to ensure that the apex court does not grant a stay without consulting the government,” he said.
Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi said the order had reiterated the message that any development at the expense of environmental degradation was not acceptable.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko, who is in the forefront if the struggle against the Sterlite unit, said the High Court order was a victory to rule of law and for the people’s struggle. “Justice has been done to the 13 lives. It is a joyous occasion for the MDMK, which has been fighting for the closure of the unit for 26 years,” Mr. Vaiko said. Pointing out that the government had not taken a policy decision on the closure of the unit, Mr. Vaiko said at least now the government should decide on its closure.
CPI (M) state secretary K. Balakrishnan said the Madras High Court order had respected the sentiments of the people of Thoothukudi, who had been demanding its closure. “We would like to point out that it is the opinion of the court that any industry that causes damage to the environment is against industrial development,” he said.
Mr. Balakrishnan said the State government should advance strong arguments against the Sterlite unit in case it approached the Supreme Court for relief.
PMK founder S. Ramadoss on Tuesday said the Madras High Court verdict disallowing the reopening of the Sterlite Copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi was ‘a milestone for Tamil Nadu.’
In a statement, he said that the environmental damage created by the Sterlite plant was enormous and this was a fair verdict.
“It is unacceptable to reopen the Sterlite plant. Environmentalists allege that since its opening in 1996, it has always violated regulations. In August 1997, an explosion in the plant had killed many but it was said that only two people were killed. In July 1997, poisonous gasses leaked from the plant which resulted in 165 female employees of Ramesh Flowers fainting. Some of them had miscarriages,” alleged Dr. Ramadoss.
He said that environmental degradation caused by the plant on land resources and in the sea was substantial, and the plant should never be allowed to open again. He urged the State government to put up a strong legal fight if the Sterlite management decided to appeal the verdict in the Supreme Court.
PMK youth wing leader and Rajya Sabha MP, Anbumani Ramadoss on social media welcomed the verdict and said the verdict was a victory for Tamil Nadu. “The State government should wage a legal battle in Supreme Court and ensure the final victory in this case,” he said.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi president Thol. Thirumavalavan on Tuesday said that he hoped the Madras High Court’s 815 page verdict refusing to reopen the Sterlite Copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi would be enough to maintain status quo even if the company goes to the Supreme Court against it.
In a statement, Mr. Thirumavalavan said that the Thoothukudi people protested in 2018 seeking the plant’s closure and 13 protesters were killed in police firing. “A commission was instituted under Aruna Jagadeesan to investigate the police firing in 2018. But more than two years have passed and the commission has not filed its report. The Madras High court also ordered a CBI enquiry into the incident, stating that the enquiry should be completed within four months and a report should be filed. However, the CBI has not even filed a chargesheet,” he charged.
“Justice needs to be served in the police firing case on Sterlite protesters just as it has been served by not reopening the Sterlite Copper plant,” he said.
Pointing out that the Madras High Court’s ruling provided a sense of joy to the people, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) general secretary T.T.V. Dhinakaran, wanted the State government to take “all legal steps” to ensure that the status quo was not disturbed. The government should be careful till the plant is permanently closed as per law, he added.