Months after the Tamil Nadu government cancelled the land allotment for the expansion of Sterlite Copper in Thoothukudi district, Tamil Nadu, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has granted an interim stay on the land allotment. According to a report in the Times of India, Justice V Parthiban said, “It appears that the authorities have passed the orders rather out of haste, disregarding the established legal norms, ostensibly on the basis of public perception.”
According to a report in the Economic Times, the Chairman of the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu has been asked to give an explanation in the matter by October 25.
In May this year, a week after 13 civilians were gunned down by police officials in Thoothukudi district during the anti-Sterlite agitations, State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) cancelled 342.2 acres of land allotted for the expansion of the copper plant.
A letter from SIPCOT stated, “The people of the area have also been raising concerns about their health on account of the operations of the plant. As the allotment of the land for the proposed expansion has been made by SIPCOT in larger public interest, the land allotment made by SIPCOT for the proposed expansion of Copper Smelter plant (Phase II) by M/s Vedanta Limited is hereby cancelled.”
A day after the shooting, the Madurai bench of the Madras HC had passed an interim order in connection with allegations of Sterlite operating the second unit in Thoothukudi, violating the Environmental Protection Act, 1986. The court stayed the construction of the new copper smelter by Sterlite.
Meanwhile, the three-member committee of the National Green Tribunal headed by Justice Tarun Agarwal has been conducting public hearings in Thoothukudi and Chennai.
The Tamil Nadu government has locked horns with the Sterlite copper smelter at the National Green Tribunal, Madras High Court and the Supreme Court over Sterlite’s operations in the state.