After a two month gap, a bench of the Madras High Court is set to resume hearing from December 16 a plea by Vedanta challenging closure of its copper smelter unit at Thoothukudi.
The bench, comprising Justices T S Sivagnanam and V Bhavani Subbaroyan, which concluded 28 days of hearing, could not continue as its senior judge Justice Sivagnanam was deputed to the Madurai bench. In view of the voluminous documents and records involved, attempts to continue the hearing through video conferencing were also dropped.
Since Justice Sivagnanam has been deputed back to the principal bench at Chennai now, counsels representing Vedanta and the state government represented to Chief Justice AP Sahi to reallot the cases to the bench, comprising Justices Sivagnanam and Bhavani.
On December 13, as per the orders of the Chief Justice, the High Court registry notified the bench comprising Justices Sivagnanam and Bhavani, which would hear the cases from December 16 to 20.
The case has seen a series of delays in the Madras High Court.
First, in June 2019, Justice KK Sasidharan recused himself from the case and said that he had previously adjudicated on the re-opening of the copper plant during his tenure at the Madurai Bench last year. So the court ordered status quo to be maintained on the closure of the plant.
Following this, in August, a division Bench was hearing the case with as many as four senior lawyers - C Ariyama Sundaram, G Masilamani, PS Raman and ARL Sundaresan, arguing on behalf of Sterlite.
And then, Justice Sivagnanam was, as he predicted, sent to the Madurai Bench of the Madras High court for three months beginning September, in which it was decided the case would be conducted via video conferencing. The judges had decided to keep the petition pending as ordering notices to the respondents would further prolong proceedings.
Sterlite's plea to re-open their copper smelter came before the Madras High Court came months after the Supreme Court upheld the Tamil Nadu government's decision to issue closure orders to the plant. The apex court had agreed to the state's argument that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) does not have the authority to strike down the Tamil Nadu's government's order. The Supreme Court instructed Sterlite to re-open the smelter, to the Madras High Court.
(With inputs from PTI)