New Delhi– The Supreme Court on Thursday did not pass any order to Vedanta’s plea seeking direction to the Tamil Nadu government to take steps for the re-opening of the group’s Sterlite copper smelting plant in the state in pursuance to a NGT order.
While not passing any interim order on Vedanta’s application, a bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha said that it would hear Tamil Nadu’s plea against NGT’s December 15 order directing the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to pass a fresh order allowing renewal of consent for the operation of the plant within three weeks.
While hearing on Thursday concluded without the top court passing any order on Vedanta’s application, the proceedings saw the court tell TNPCB that its insistence on the compliance of NGT condition does not mean that the plant would remain under lock.
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 C.S. 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 Tamil Nadu government ordered TNPCB to seal and “permanently” close the plant in the wake of violent protests over pollution concerns.
Apparently not satisfied by the TNPCB’s response, 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.
Vaidyanathan said that it would amount to the dismissal of Tamil Nadu government’s appeal against the NGT order and urged the court to wait till Tuesday (January 28) and nothing should be decided till then.
“That is for us to decide and not you,” said Justice Nariman.
The court’s observations came after senior counsel C.A. Sundram, appearing for Vedanta, told the court that they can’t comply with the NGT conditions without the restoration of electricity.
Describing the conditions at Vedatnta’s Sterlite copper smelting plant as shocking, Sundram said that it would take them 60 days to commence operations.
Senior counsel K.V. 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.
“The blood spilled on the street is seeking justice,” Vaiko told the court which asked him to modulate his voice and not to shout in the court.
The court asked Vaiko to either answer the question from the bench or continue the way likes.
As Vaiko appeared unrelenting, Justice Nariman summing up his submission, said: “Your short point is don’t let them open the plant.”
Setting aside the Tamil Nadu government’s order to permanently close the Vedanta’s copper smelting plant at Thoothukudi, the NGT had directed the TNPCB to pass a fresh order allowing renewal of consent for the plant within three weeks.
The Tamil Nadu government on January 2 moved the top court challenging the December 15 NGT order. It said the operation of the plant had caused irreversible water pollution.
The plant was put under lock on May 28, 2018 when the state government ordered the TNPCB to seal and “permanently” close the plant in the wake of violent protests. (IANS)