TN can challenge Centre’s report vis-a-vis Sterlite: HC

Chennai: The Madras High Court Monday disposed of a Tamilnadu government’s plea seeking quashing of the Centre’s groundwater quality report that declined to pin the blame only on Sterlite’s copper unit, now closed, for pollution, saying that the state may challenge it as per law.

A division bench comprising justices M M Sundresh and Krishnan Ramasamy said it was not inclined to get into the merits of the case or express any opinion. Earlier, it recorded Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan’s submission that as per Article 131 of the Constitution, the report could be challenged only in the Supreme Court.

The bench disposed of the petition noting “it is for the state to accept or disregard the report. We do not want to go into the merits of the case and express any opinion. It is open to the state to question the report in the manner known to law. Disposed of.”

The petition was filed by the state government in September, seeking to quash the “Ground Water Quality Report of the Central Ground Water Board.” The state government had months ago rejected the Centre’s report on groundwater contamination in Tuticorin in the backdrop of the Sterlite controversy, saying it was “absolutely vague” and seemed to support the Vedanta Ltd unit which was “totally unwarranted.”

The copper unit was ordered to be closed permanently by the state government on grounds of pollution after a protest by locals against the plant turned violent in May. Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan had written to the Union Water Resources secretary saying that the state was “perturbed” that the report had been commissioned without intimating the state or other authorities like the State Pollution Control Board.

The circumstances under which the Ministry of Water Resources had asked the CGWB to carry out a water quality assessment in that area was “lacking in bonafides,” the state government had said.

The main opposition DMK had also lashed out at the report, saying it “angered’ the people of the state. Later, the government had approached the high court.

“The report released by the board is incorrect and unwarranted at this stage. It shows clear malafide intention of the board in supporting the case of the Sterlite Industry,” the principal secretary of state Environment and Forest department had said in the petition.