One of the two judges in a division bench of the Madras High Court has recused himself from hearing Vedanta Ltd's petition against Tamil Nadu government's orders closing down the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi and seeking reopening of the plant.
Justice Sasidharan recused himself stating that he had earlier heard the matter in Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court and he may stay away from hearing the petition. The matter has been submitted with the Chief Justice to be assigned to another bench, he said.
The company approached the court after the Supreme Court on February 18, 2019 set aside a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, which permitted the re-opening of the plant. The SC had given Vedanta the liberty to approach the Madaras High Court.
The copper smelter is shut since April 2018 after it failed to obtain renewal of Consent to Operate (CTO).
The company's application for renewal of CTO for the existing copper smelter was rejected by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in April 2018. Subsequently, the government of Tamil Nadu issued directions to close the plant permanently after locals protested against the plant. The protest led to the death of 13 people in police firing.
The NGT, through its order on December 15, 2018 had set aside the orders of the state government and directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to pass fresh orders to allow the plant to operate, subject to appropriate conditions for protection of environment in accordance with law. The Tamil Nadu government and the pollution control board had then challenged to order in the Supreme Court.