The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday moved the Supreme Court challenging a National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) decision to constitute an “independent and credible” committee, led by former Punjab and Haryana Chief Justice S.J. Vazifdar, to look into the State’s closure of the Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi.
The State government, represented by advocate Yogesh Kanna, said the NGT set aside the challenge raised by it about the maintainability of Sterlite’s petition in the tribunal and constituted this three-member panel to “go into the material produced by the parties on issues of environmental compliance as well as impact on inhabitants as perceived or actual”.
Besides Justice Vazifdar, the committee is composed of representatives from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Tamil Nadu said the tribunal failed to note that the orders of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control (TNPCB) Board as well as the Tamil Nadu government could not be set aside without assigning any reason.
Backed by statute
“The tribunal is a creature of the statute and therefore, the tribunal can only function within the four corners of the statute.
“The tribunal is not vested with the plenary jurisdiction and is required to discharge its functions strictly as per the provisions of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010,” the Tamil Nadu petition argued.
The petition said the tribunal failed to appreciate the report provided by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board stating that the quality of groundwater, samples of which were collected at eight locations in and around Copper Smelter plant of Vedanta Ltd. revealed that level of TDS was “very high”.
Further, the petition said, the report had provided details of the industries located within Sipcot Industrial Complex and the discharge made by them. It had held the company responsible for the pollution of ground water in and around Thoothukudi district.