Sterlite closure can’t be justified: Panel

Chennai: The three-member expert committee appointed to probe into the case involving the shutdown of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Smelter plant has stated in its report that the decision taken by the State government to close the plant cannot be justified.

The independent committee headed by Justice Tarun Agrawal had submitted its final report recently to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), months after Vedanta appealed against the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board’s (TNPCB) decision to seal the plant in Thoothukudi.

In its report, the committe has said, ‘the State government’s order to close the plant cannot be justified. Ordering the closure of the plant was against nature.’ The committee has also stated that the State government should have given a proper notice to Vedanta before taking such a measure.

Although the next hearing was slotted for 10 December, affected parties had requested for an earlier date. Reports stated that the committee’s observations along with supporting documents constitute over 40 bundles. Both Sterlite and anti-Sterlite counsels have received copies of the report to study and interpret.

The committee comprises representatives from the the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Prosecutors from Vedanta’s side cited political reasons for downing shutters at the copper plant at the panel headed by Chairman of the tribunal, AK Goyel, saying the closure of the plant took place was done due to political interventions. They added that the report has come in favour of re-opening of the plant and revealed that they will press for the same.

The NGT has stated that the Tamilnadu government must send any reply on the matter in one week’s time and said the next hearing of the case will be on 7 December.

Commenting on the matter, State Minister for Information and Publicity, Kadambur Raju, said the government will take necessary actions and will ensure that ‘the Sterlite plant stays shut’.

On 22-23 May this year, the police opened fire on protestors who rallied asking for the closure of the Sterlite Cooper unit in Thoothukudi, that led to the demise of 13 individuals. Later, it was revealed by the cops that perpetrators had entered among the protesting public leading to violence and shooting as a consequence.

The TNPCB ordered for the closure of the plant on 28 May and Vedanta in the hope of revising the decision, approached the NGT to resolve the matter.

On 5 July, the NGT refused to grant any stay on Tamilnadu governmentÂ’s order and Vedanta, came back within a month proposing that it be allowed to carry out administrative work inside the premises.

NT Bureau