Madras High Court to resume hearing in Sterlite case

Sterlite Copper filed a petition challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to close down the copper smelter after the Supreme Court asked it to do so.

After a gap of two months, the Madras High Court will on Monday resume hearing in the appeal filed by Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper, challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut down its copper smelter in Thoothukudi.

The copper smelter on the outskirts of Thoothukudi, 610 kms from here, was closed down on May 28, 2018, seven days after massive protests against expansion of the plant turned violent, resulting in the death of 13 people in police firing.

The division bench of Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan will resume the hearing on Monday after a gap of two months - the hearing will continue till December 20. The hearing in the case was stopped after Justice Sivagnanam was deputed to the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court.

Since Justice Sivagnanam has been deputed back to the principal bench here, the counsels of both sides – Vedanta and Tamil Nadu – approached the Chief Justice to ensure that the case was heard by the same bench.

Sterlite Copper filed a petition challenging the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to close down the copper smelter after the Supreme Court asked it to do so. The apex court had directed Sterlite Copper to approach Madras High Court after striking down an order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that allowed the re-opening of the plant.

Tamil Nadu government challenged the NGT decision in the Supreme Court, which said that the green tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to allow the opening of the plant. However, the apex court said Sterlite Copper had the liberty to approach the Madras High Court, which has been hearing the case since August.

Sterlite Copper’s numerous attempts at getting access to its plant ostensibly for maintenance purposes have also failed before the High Court. While Sterlite Copper argues that the Tamil Nadu government’s decision was arbitrary and was taken only to quell the protests, the AIADMK government says it has followed due procedure while taking the decision.

The company maintains that it has approached the Madras High Court because the NGT order was set aside by the Supreme Court solely on the grounds of maintainability.

Besides, shutting down Sterlite Copper also led to a severe shortage of copper in India, forcing the country to import the commodity in large quantities since May 2018.

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