The Madras High Court on Friday declined to grant interim relief to Vedanta to access its Sterlite copper plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi for maintenance and administrative purposes, Bar & Bench reported. The court admitted a petition filed by the company on February 27 for reopening the copper smelter.
The petition was filed after the Supreme Court last month refused to allow the reopening of the plant, setting aside an order of the National Green Tribunal. The top court had said the Tamil Nadu government and Vedanta were free to approach the Madras High Court on the matter.
In December, the National Green Tribunal had set aside the state government’s order to shut down the plant. The state government filed a plea against it, arguing that the tribunal had no jurisdiction in the matter. The Supreme Court had in January refused to stay the NGT order.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government had decided to shut down Vedanta’s copper smelter days after 13 people protesting against its expansion were killed in May.
Advocate Aryama Sundaram, appearing on behalf of Vedanta, on Friday told the High Court that the state administration had failed to properly maintain the smelter and that a hazardous leak from the plant had taken place. However, CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board, argued that the leak had occurred earlier.
A bench of Justices M Sathyanarayanan and B Nirmal Kumar clarified that the state would be solely responsible for any environmental hazard that takes places while it is in charge of the plant.
Asking the state government, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board to respond, the judges posted the matter for further hearing on March 27.