Tamil Nadu

SC to consider T.N. plea to expunge remarks in Vedanta ruling

The plant was sealed by the government owing to environmental concerns.  

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider a plea by the Tamil Nadu government and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to expunge certain “unwarranted” remarks made by the Madras High Court about them in its judgment rejecting permission to Vedanta to re-open its Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi.

The plant was sealed by the State government on May 28, 2018, owing to environmental concerns. A Bench, led by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, issued notice on the petition filed by the State through its Additional Advocate-General Balaji Srinivasan.

“The remarks are of a wide and sweeping nature, and encompass within their ambit not just officials and offices who were in any matter associated in regulating Vedanta’s copper smelter but the entire Pollution Control Board... Similarly, no specific officer of the State has been identified, nor have the remarks been confined to any specific local authority,” the petition said.

The petition was tagged with the main appeal filed by Vedanta against the August 2020 judgment of the High Court. The court reiterated that the main appeal would be heard later.

On December 2 last year, the Bench declined a proposal made by Vedanta to operate the closed plant for 30 days under the supervision of an expert committee appointed by the court.

The company had mooted the idea so that the court could ascertain whether the plant was complying with pollution control norms. Vedanta had said its plant met 36% of India’s copper needs and it was not in public interest to keep it closed.

The Tamil Nadu government had argued that the proposal was only a “ruse to open” a plant which had been a polluting one for over 20 years. Slag was dumped all over Thoothukudi at 11 places.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for Vedanta, had said the plant, established in 1995, was upgraded periodically with the best technologies available. Its overall asset value was ₹3,630 crore. The factory employed 4,000 people directly and another 20,000 indirectly. The closure of the plant had affected the lives of two lakh dependants by virtue of downstream industries.

Its contribution to the Central government exchequer had been ₹2,559 crore. Besides, the plant had accounted for 7% of the traffic to the Thoothukudi port. The closure had resulted in India becoming a net importer of refined copper after 18 years, Mr. Singhvi had said.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, for the local residents, had termed the plant a “persistent polluter and a chronic defaulter”.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 2:07:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sc-to-consider-tn-plea-to-expunge-remarks-in-vedanta-ruling/article33639377.ece

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