By Sudarshan Varadhan
THOOTHUKUDI, India (Reuters) - An Indian court is expected on Friday to follow an experts' panel recommendation and order the reopening of a copper smelter closed after 13 people died when police fired on environmental protesters in May, two sources familiar with the matter said.
State authorities permanently shut down the smelter after police fired on protesters calling for the closure of the plant in the town of Thoothukudi in May.
But a panel of experts set up by the National Green Tribunal, the environmental court, said last week authorities in Tamil Nadu state had failed to comply with procedures before shutting down the smelter.
The panel also said the grounds for a permanent closure were not sufficiently grievous. Authorities had said the plant was polluting the environment.
"The court is likely to give a verdict based on the recommendations of the committee. The state will, however, definitely appeal if the verdict is in favour of the company," one source said.
Vedanta said it could not comment on the case because the matter is sub judice.
Multiple witnesses told Reuters that police gave no warning before firing with live ammunition on the protesters on May 22.
The protesters threw stones and set vehicles on fire as they marched to the district government offices in Thoothukudi, formerly known as Tuticorin, to press for the plant's closure.
The protesters said the smelter had polluted ground waterand the air around the plant.
Ten people were killed on the day of the protest and another three later died of their wounds, making it one of India's deadliest environmental protests.
It was not clear if a court order to reopen the smelter would trigger more protests.
Vedanta said on Thursday its copper business accounted for five percent of the company's overall profit before the smelter was shutdown.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)