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Supreme Court refuses to stay NGT order to re-open Vedanta's Sterlite Unit

The plant has been closed since March 27, initially for maintenance and later due to the state pollution control board's refusal to give its consent to operate

T E Narasimhan  |  Chennai 

sterlite, sterlite protest, Tamil Nadu
Photo: Reuters

The has ordered the reopening of the Group's Sterlite copper smelter in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. The order comes as a setback for the Tamil Nadu government, which moved to the last week against the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order that allowed Group to reopen its Sterlite copper smelter in Tuticorin, saying the tribunal has no jurisdiction in the matter.

The Apex Court on Tuesday refused to stay NGT order to re-open Sterlite Unit.

The NGT had on December 15 set aside the state government’s order to shut the smelter after police firing on May 22 killed 13 people in a crowd protesting against the unit’s expansion.

The green tribunal called the government's decision "non-sustainable and unjustifiable" and asked the (TNPCB) to restore to the plant and provide immediate access.

ALSO READ: Tamil Nadu moves top court against NGT order to open Sterlite plant

The TNPCB and state government on Wednesday told the that the NGT didn’t have the authority to allow Vedanta access to the plant.

Senior Counsel C. Aryama Sundaram, who appeared for Sterlite confirmed the order and said that Supreme Court refused to grant stay on the order passed by the NGT stating that the NGT Order prevails and need to be complied by the parties.

He also said that the Madras High Court's Order to restrain Sterlite from reopening copper plant in Thoothukudi was also stayed. It may be noted, on December 21, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court directed that status quo will continue till January 21 and ordered the State to inform by then whether it intended to file an appeal against the tribunal verdict.

The plant has been closed since March 27, initially for maintenance and later due to the state pollution control board's refusal to give its consent to operate.

The plant caters to 35-40 per cent of copper demand in India and it generates tax revenue worth Rs 2,000 crore for central and state governments.

Vedanta has said it has been losing Rs 5 crore every day due to the closure.

Timeline:

2018

January 31 : Sterlite applies for renewal of Consent to Operate

February 5 : Villagers in A. Kumararediapuram (I. R. Rediyur) raised protests about expansion plant at District Collectorate and also near the expansion plant area

March 24 : A major protest is held in Thoothukudi town, seeing participation from around 20,000 people

March 27 : Sterlite announce closure of the factory for maintenance, which is supposed to take 15 days

April 9 : TNPCB rejects Sterlite's CTO Application and Vedanta approaches the Appellate Authority against it

May 22 : 13 people dies in a Police firing during anti-Sterlite protest at Thoothukudi

May 23 - TNPCB directs closure and disconnection of power supply

May 28 - State Government, through TNPCB, orders to close the factory permanently

June 22 - Sterlite approaches the NGT against the State's action

August 20 - NGT appoints three-member independent committee to visit Thoothukudi and have first-hand assessment

October 3: Madurai Bench grants interim stay on the State's GO which halted Sterlite expansion

December 15 - NGT sets aside State government's order to permanently close down the factory; directed TNPCB to pass fresh order of renewal of consent subject to findings in three weeks and asks to restore electricity for the company's operations

December 21, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court directed that status quo will continue till

January 21 and ordered the State to inform by then whether it intended to file an appeal against the tribunal verdict

2019

January 2: moved Supreme Court against the order of allowing re-opening of Sterlite's Tuticorin unit.

Jannuary 8: Supreme Court order to reopen Sterlite

Fact box

  • Sterlite Copper's facility at Thoothukudi got capacity to produce 4,00,000 tonnes of refined copper plans to double capacity at a cost of Rs 25 billion
  • Already invested around Rs 30 billion for establishing the plant till now
  • Loosing Rs 50 million every day due to the closure
  • Caters to 35-40 % of copper demand in India & 60 per cent of the copper produced at the plant caters domestic market & balance exported
  • Generates revenue to Central and State Governments, way of excise, custom duties, income tax and VAT to the tune of Rs 20 billion
  • Prices of Copper in India rose by 10-20%. The prices of Sulphuric acid has risen by more than six times

First Published: Tue, January 08 2019. 11:20 IST
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