Chennai: The Supreme Court did not pass any order on Thursday on Vedanta’s plea which sought the state government’s direction to ensure the re-opening of Sterlite copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu as per the NGT order.
However, a bench comprising Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha observed that the Tamil Nadu’s plea against NGT’s December 15 order will be heard within three weeks. The NGT’s order sought the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB)’s direction to pass a new order allowing the renewal of consent for the operation of Sterlite power plant.
Though no order was passed on Thursday, the proceedings of the court suggested that the plant would not remain shut. Justice Nariman told TNPCB: “The first thing that you were to do was to comply with the NGT (National Green Tribunal) order and restore electricity.”
As senior counsel CS Vaidyanathan appearing for TNPCB said that the restoration of electricity was subject to the compliance of condition enumerated by the green court, Justice Nariman retorted, “Subject to (compliance of conditions) does not mean it (plant) will not start. How will they start compliance without having electricity.”
The plant was shut down on May 28, 2018, when the state government ordered TNPCB to “permanently” close the plant. On January 2, the Tamil Nadu government moved the top court challenging the December 15 NGT order as the plant’s operation had already caused irreversible water pollution.
Dismissing the state government’s appeal, the court indicated that it would order the reopening of the plant, restoration of electricity and the compliance of every single condition by Vedanta as ordered by NGT. In response, the senior counsel Vaidyanathan urged the court to wait till Tuesday (January 28). However, Justice Nariman retaliated by saying, “That is for us to decide and not you.”
The court’s observations came after senior counsel CA Sundaram, appearing for Vedanta, told the court that they can’t comply with the NGT conditions without the restoration of electricity. Sundaram added that re-starting the plant’s operations would take them 60 days.
Senior counsel KV Vishwanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, contested Vedanta’s claim that steps had not been taken by the state government to comply with NGT order. Vishwanathan said that 250 people of Vedanta were already inside to clear out the things and enter the administrative block. The hearing also saw Vaiko telling the court that the plant was shut after violence that claimed 13 lives. (With IANS inputs)