TN govt defends decision of shutting down Vedanta plant

Tamil Nadu government defends its decision of shutting down Vedanta plant

"The pollution caused by the company on groundwater has been continuous", it said

A private security guard stands in front of the main gate of Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant in Tuticorin. Credit: Reuters file photo.

The Tamil Nadu government has told the Supreme Court that its decision of May 28, 2018, to close down the Vedanta Sterlite plant, at Thoothukudi was a "classic case where the authorities have acted on the basis of technical reports, after due application of mind, and in the interest of the public".

"The pollution caused by the company on groundwater has been continuous, and has proven to be irremediable and irreversible along with the continued operation," it said.

The government maintained that the Madras High Court has in its judgement on August 18 considered the matter in this factual backdrop, and correctly concluded that permanent closure was the only proportional and adequate response to the grave transgressions by the company.

"Such an order, passed to protect the environment, and in consonance with the environmental jurisprudence of this court, brooks no interference," it said.

In an affidavit to a plea by the company to allow the reopening of the plant, the state government said the High Court, after satisfying itself as to the bona fides of the decision-making process, has not supplanted any contra view to the feel of the expert authorities on closure. 

"Equally, the court has chosen not to supplant its view as against the technical and administrative aspects of the matter, in consonance with the theory and principle of the separation of powers," it said.

The state government further said that its Environment and Forest Department exercised its powers under section 18(1)(b) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 read with Article 48A of the Constitution in “larger public interest” to endorse the TN Pollution Control Board’s directions “and also” to “direct” to “seal the unit and close the plant permanently.” 

"In doing so, the State Government took a policy decision to close the unit permanently," it said.

In a separate detailed affidavit, the TNPCB stated among other grounds that a policy decision could only be interfered with by the court if such decision was shown to be patently arbitrary, discriminatory or mala fide.