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TN govt order to close unit is 'naked' discrimination, Sterlite tells HC

It said the order was only a knee-jerk reaction of the state to "appease" a section of public with vested interest

Anti Sterlite protests | Sterlite Copper plant | Sterlite Copper closure

Press Trust of India  |  Chennai 

Sterlite Copper
Sterlite Copper plant unit in Tuticorin

Vedanta group's Sterlite Copper Wednesday told the Madras High Court that the Tamil Nadu government's closure order against its Tuticorin unit was nothing but "naked" discrimination.

It said the order was only a knee-jerk reaction of the state to "appease" a section of public with vested interest.

The state government had earlier justified its closure order in its counter affidavit.

Unit general manager Sathyapriya in her rejoinder to the Tamil Nadu government's counter claimed that the order dated May 28, 2018 ordering closure of the Tuticorin unit was not a policy decision as "the same is clearly aimed at a singular industry rather than a class of industries".

"It is arbitrary and unreasonable to classify Sterlite alone as a class in itself, and hence such policy would be hit by Article 14 of the Constitution."

She said reports of the various committees, constituted by the National Green Tribunal, in support of the unit cannot be ignored.

It was unfortunate that the state was taking an adversarial position and not considering the representations from more than 1,55,000 people supporting the opening and restart of the unit, she added.

The company further claimed that the state has taken the protection of a "policy decision" only to circumvent the statutory requirements, restrictions and mandate of the 'Air and Water Act' and to seek to limit the grounds of challenge before the court of law.

She pointed out that the company had already deposited Rs 100 crore with the Tuticorin district collector which was imposed by the Supreme Court.

"The interest accrued on the said compensation so deposited in 2013 has not been utilised by the district administration for improving the environment, including water and soil, of the vicinity of the plant as was directed by the apex court.."

This in itself concludes the fact that there was nothing material to be carried out in terms of environment improvement in the area, the company said.

The apex court had ordered the firm to pay Rs 100 crore as compensation for environmental damage around its Tuticorin-based copper smelting unit in Tamil Nadu.

"The closure order issued by the Government of Tamil Nadu is nothing but a naked discrimination against the company," it said.

The issue pertains to a plea moved by Sterlite challenging the closure order which is slated to be taken up for hearing by a special division bench of justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan on June 27.

The government has submitted that permanent closure was ordered in May to prevent further pollution in the area.

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First Published: Wed, June 26 2019. 22:15 IST