It seems the Sterlite case is fast heading towards completion, with the National Green Tribunal Monday reserving its order on a plea by mining company Vedanta Ltd challenging closure of its plant in Thoothukudi, where a massive protest was witnessed in May against alleged pollution by the factory. A bench headed by NGT chairperson Adarsh Kumar Goel said the order would be uploaded on the tribunal’s website next week.
The plant was closed following an order by the Tamilnadu government after allegations and unprecedented protests by ‘people living near the factory’ who cited that the unit was polluting the locality. At least 13 people were killed and several injured on 22 May when police opened fire on a crowd staging protest in this regard in Thoothukudi. The tribunal had earlier set up an independent committee to look into the allegations of environmental pollution by Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper factory. The committee, headed by former Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Tarun Agrawal, had said no notice or opportunity of hearing was given to Vedanta before the closure of the plant.
“The impugned orders cannot be sustained as it is against the principles of natural justice. No notice or opportunity of hearing was given to the appellant. The grounds mentioned in the impugned orders are not that grievous to justify permanent closure of the factory. Other issues raised also do not justify the closure of the factory even if the appellant was found to be violating the conditions / norms / directions,” the committee had said. The company had earlier offered before the tribunal that it would invest Rs 100 crore in Thoothukudi for the welfare of the people, including construction of schools, hospitals and supply of drinking water. With the NGT reserving its order now after hearing the company and the government, let us hope that it would soon spell out a verdict after taking into consideration concerns expressed by all stakeholders.