New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on Thursday refused to stay the order issued by the Tamil Nadu government directing closure of the Sterlite industries at Toothukudi in Tamil Nadu.
A bench headed by acting Chairperson Justice Jawad Rahim, however, issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government and the State Pollution Control Board seeking their response to the Sterlite petition challenging the closure order. The Tribunal also allowed the state government to file its response questioning maintainability and posted the matter for further hearing on July 18.
On May 22, violence broke out on the 100th day of the anti-Sterlite agitations after police opened fire on residents who were marching towards the District Collector’s office. 13 civilians were shot dead by the police during the confrontation, and over 200 others were maimed for life.
Following this, on May 28, the Tamil Nadu Government directed the TNPCB to shut down the Sterlite Copper Smelter plant in Thoothukudi, “Under sections, 18(1)(b) of the Water Act, 1974 in the larger public interest, the Government endorse the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and also direct the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.”
A bench headed by Acting National Green Tribunal Chairperson Justice Jawad Rahim asked the state and the board to respond before July 18. The green court also allowed the state government to file a statement questioning the maintainability of Vedanta’s plea.
At the outset Senior Advocates C S Vaidyanathan and Rakesh Diwedi, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, questioned the maintainability of the petition by Vedanta on the ground that it had already filed an appeal before the appellate authority under the Water Act. The company cannot be allowed to have a parallel remedy when the adjudication is still pending.
Senior counsel Aryama Sundaram, Pinaki Misra and Ms. Rohini Musa, however, submitted that the closure order was illegal and it was passed without giving an opportunity the company.
In view of the sudden closure of the industry, over 1.50 lakh people, including the workers have been affected. When the plant was being operated without causing any pollution, counsel wondered why it was shut down suddenly. Vaidyanathan and Diwedi, however, justified the closure order and said it was passed in accordance with the State’s powers.
In its petition Sterlite sought to "restrain the Government of Tamil Nadu by an order of permanent injunction from in any manner preventing or interfering with the functioning and operations of the unit or in any manner purporting the prohibiting of the functioning and operations of the unit.
It wanted a direction to restore minimum power supply, water and manpower access for safeguarding the emergency systems of the plant as it houses various chemicals, resins and fuels. It said due to the sudden closure of the plant the same posed a threat to the surroundings, the plant and machinery within the plant. It also wanted permission to complete maintenance activities....