Vedanta lawyer expresses shock at Madras HC ruling

Appeal will be filed against verdict very soon, he says.

Published - August 18, 2020 02:49 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Senior Supreme Court advocate and Vedanta’s lawyer Aryama Sundaram on Tuesday expressed shock at the Madras High Court’s rejection of the plea by the company to reopen the Sterlite Copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu.

Mr. Sundaram said an appeal would be filed against the verdict very soon.

The plant has remained shut since April 2018. The High Court has upheld the decision of the State to close the plant.

“We are shocked by the decision to close the Sterlite plant. We have always maintained that this was nothing but a knee-jerk reaction by the government on account of certain vested interests”, Mr. Sundaram said.

The closure of the factory was a “very retrogade step”, he stated. “It is a very retrograde step not only against the interests of Tamil Nadu but of India itself. Instead of being self-sufficient in copper, a situation has been created by which India now imports two billion dollars of copper from China”, he stated.

Thirteen people died in a police firing in May 2018 during protests raising pollution concerns in connection with the plant.

“In fact in the period prior to the closure, there was no notice or complaint regarding pollution... We shall be taking our legal remedies”, Mr. Sundaram said.

NGT decision

In February last year, the apex court set aside the National Green Tribunal (NGT) decision to reopen the plant. The tribunal had directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to pass fresh orders of renewal of consent and issue authorisation to Vedanta Limited, which owns the plant, to handle hazardous substances.

However, at the time, the apex court did not delve into the merits of the case while peremptorily setting aside the tribunal decision on the ground of maintainability alone.

The apex court's decision was based on an appeal filed by the State, through advocate M. Yogesh Kanna. The State had argued that the NGT failed to consider the entire gamut of data, documents and evidence placed on record in the case to show that the plant had “irreversibly polluted the ground water in and around the Thoothukudi district”.

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