SC notice on Vedanta plea against Madras HC order on plant opening

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on a plea by mining company Vedanta challenging the Madras High Court order, declining permission to reopen its Sterlite copper unit in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin, closed since May 2018 over pollution issues.

A bench comprising Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee said: “Permission to file special leave petition is granted. Issue notice, returnable in four weeks, in the special leave petitions as also on the prayer for interim relief. Counter affidavit may be filed within four weeks. Rejoinder, if any, may be filed within two weeks thereafter.”

The Tamil Nadu government has already filed a caveat in the matter in the apex court, seeking to be heard before the court passes any order on the issue.

The Madras High Court on August 18 had declined the plea of the mining company, which urged the court to allow it to reopen the copper plant. Upholding the May 2018 order of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), which directed the closure of the plant, the court had accepted its contention that the company’s operation was behind the pollution. It noted that protecting the environment is the primary concern and the economic considerations have no role to play in these matters.

In February 2019, the mining company had moved the high court, seeking its permission to reopen the Sterlite plant. According to the orders issued by the TNPCB, the plant was closed in May 2018, in view of protests, which turned violent, against the plant, and left 13 people dead in police firing.

The high court had also declined to order status quo until Vedanta went on appeal to the Supreme Court, which had allowed the mining company to move the high court.