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Supreme Court dismisses Vedanta's appeal to reopen Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi

The plant has been closed since May 2018 after 13 people were killed as police opened fire to quell a protest over alleged pollution caused by it.
Last Updated 29 February 2024, 11:19 IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea by Vedanta against the closure of its copper smelting plant in 2018 in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi over alleged violation of environmental norms and in the wake of massive protests against its operation.

A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra emphasised that the court has to be mindful of well settled principles, including the principles of sustainable development, the polluter pays principles and public trust doctrine.

“We have heard these proceedings for several days and after careful evaluation of factual and legal material, we have come to the conclusion that the special leave petition by the industrial unit does not warrant interference, the special leave petition stands dismissed," the bench said.

The court said the health and welfare of the residents of the area is again a matter of utmost concern and in the ultimate analysis, the state government is responsible for it.

The court said the closure of industry undoubtedly not a matter of first choice.

However, the repeated nature of breaches, coupled with the severity of the violations would in this analysis have left neither the statutory authorities nor the high court to take any other view unless they were to be oblivious of their duty, the court said.

The bench said that it is conscious of the fact that the unit has been contributing to the productive assets of the nation and providing employment and revenue in the area. 

“Equally, while these aspects have undoubted relevance, the court has to be mindful of other well settled principles, including the principles of sustainable development, the polluter pays principles and public trust doctrine,” the bench said.

The court also dismissed the appeals filed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board questioning the observations made by the Madras High Court against it.

“We are of view that high court was justified in making observations in regard to lack of alacrity of pollution control board in discharging its duties,” the bench said.   

In 2018, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) ordered the closure of the controversial Sterlite Plant after massive protests by locals, social and environmental activists, who alleged that the facility was causing widespread and severe pollution, leading to the spread of serious diseases among locals. The decision of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board was later upheld by the Madras High Court in August 2020. 

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(Published 29 February 2024, 11:19 IST)

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