10 August 2011
Soibam Rocky Singh
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday extended the interim stay on the Madras High Court order directing closure of Sterlite Industries copper smelting plant at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu till August 25.
During the brief hearing, senior counsel CA Sundaram appearing for Sterlite Industries submitted before the bench that the company had spent about Rs 500 crores on pollution control measures. He submitted that no other company in the world has invested such amount of money on pollution control measures.
“You spent Rs 500 crores on pollution control measures, i.e. your industry must be very polluting,” the bench said interrupting the senior counsel.
CA Sundaram continued with his contention that any ban on the operation of the copper smelting plant has ramifications all over. He added that apart from Birla Copper, which is the largest copper smelter in the country, Sterlite produces about 45 percent of India’s copper. He further stated that the interim report of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) on pollution and environment impact assessment on Sterlite Industries have shown that no major non adherence from the company.
“If you see the NEERI report, there is clearly nothing to find,” Sundaram said.
Commenting on the senior counsel’s argument, the bench said, “You go to Tuticorin and ask any man whether it is polluting or not.”
Appearing for the Tamil Nadu state government, senior counsel V. Prakash alleged that Sterlite suppressed material facts and got an interim report in its favour. “He suppressed material facts, made an impression and got the interim report,” the senior counsel alleged.
A bench of Justice RV Raveendran and Justice AK Patnaik has adjourned the matter till August 25 after all the parties involved in the matter consented to it. The bench also observed that the interim stay order on Madras High Court order will continue till next hearing.
The direction of the court came over a petition filed by Sterlite Industry against the Madras High Court order directing closure of the unit on account of non-compliance with the environmental standards.
The Apex Court had put an interim stay on the High Court order, however it had also directed Sterlite to take all remedial measures suggested by Central Pollution control Board and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
Earlier Madras High Court had held that the Copper smelting plant of Sterlite Industries (a group company of UK based Vedanta Group) had failed to develop a green belt of 250 metre around the plant which was mandatory as it fell within 25 km of an “ecologically fragile area”.