In a blow to Vedanta Limited, the Supreme Court of India refused to allow it to reopen the Sterlite Copper factory in Thoothukudi. The company had filed a plea in the apex court seeking an order to reopen the factory temporarily for 3-4 months at least to carry out administrative and basic maintenance work.
As per reports, the petition by Vedanta was filed as an appeal against the order of Madras high court which refused to allow the plant to be reopened. In August, a Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee had refused to grant Vedanta any relief and had directed the company to argue for an interim stay. On Wednesday, the court refused to grant the interim stay. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the government of Tamil Nadu had vehemently opposed the reopening of the plant at the Supreme Court.
The state government had submitted that the final decision to close the factory was taken after several deliberations and discussions and that no guidelines or rules were violated in passing the order for shutting the factory down. The government also argued that the factory had violated several environmental norms and it was based on those violations that the order to close the factory was passed. Accepting the state governmentâ€™s arguments, the Supreme Court refused to grant Vedantaâ€™s plea.
The Madras High Court had, in August 2020, disposed of all the petitions of Vedanta and had refused to entertain its plea to grant the reopening of the plant. The company had then approached the apex court with an appeal against the order of the high court.
The plant was shut down on May 24, 2018 by the state government after 13 civilians were shot dead in the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi on May 22, 2018. The residents of the town have been consistently up in arms against the environmental pollution caused allegedly by the plant. In June 2018, the company approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for relief and secured an order in its favour. However, in February 2019, the Supreme Court set aside the NGTâ€™s order and directed the company to approach the Madras high court for relief.