Madras High Court reserves verdict in Sterlite case

While Sterlite argued reopening of the plant, which is shut since April 2018, the Tamil Nadu government wanted the smelter to remain shut.

Madras High Court on Wednesday reserved orders 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 division bench of Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan, which resumed the hearing in the case on December 16 after a gap of over three months, reserved the order as both sides completed their arguments.

Before reserving the verdict, the bench also handed out an assurance that they will try to deliver the judgement as early as possible.

While Sterlite argued reopening of the plant, which is shut since April 2018, the Tamil Nadu government wanted the smelter to remain shut.

While Sterlite concluded its arguments before the court went for winter break, government counsels and other intervenors in the matter, including representatives from anti-Sterlite movement and residents of Thoothukudi, placed their point of view in the past three days.

The copper smelter on the outskirts of Thoothukudi, 610 km 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.

Tamil Nadu government, citing reports from its pollution watchdog, accuses Sterlite Copper of polluting the area. However, the Vedanta-owned company refutes the allegations saying it follows best practices as mandated by the law.

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 that it has followed due procedure while taking the decision.

After the Tamil Nadu government closed down the plant, Sterlite Copper moved the NGT which struck down the order and declared its reopening.

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 that Sterlite Copper had the liberty to approach Madras High Court, which has been hearing the case since August.

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