Setback for Vedanta, SC refuses to allow re-opening of Tuticorin plant

In a big setback for Vedanta, the Supreme Court has refused to permit the firm to restart the contentious Tuticorin copper, which was at the center of massive protests over pollution concerns but directed it to approach the Madras High Court for a reprieve.

Setting aside a National Green Tribunal order that had permitted Vedanta to restart the plant, a bench headed by Justice RF Nariman stated the company can seek an urgent hearing in the case from the High Court.

In its December 15 order, the NGT had set aside the Tamil Nadu Government’s order closing down the Vedanta-managed Sterlite Copper factory in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu government had appealed to the Supreme court against this order.

The court stated NGT has no jurisdiction to order reopening of the plant. The court was hearing a plea by Vedanta group looking for a direction to Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to implement the NGT order which had set aside the government’s decision to close the plant.

On January 8, the major court had paved the way to re-open the plant by denying to stay the tribunal’s order.

The Vedanta-owned Sterlite Factory was shut in 2013 on complaints of causing harm to the environment. It was reopened after the Supreme Court ruled in its favor but directed it to spend Rs 100 crore to safeguard the environment in the regions.

At least 13 people were murdered and several injured on May 22 last year when police opened fire on people protesting against the environment pollution being caused by the unit.

Six days later, the Tamil Nadu government ordered the state pollution control board to seal and “permanently” close the plant.