Madras HC no to reopening of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper Plant at Thoothukudi

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Leaders of various political parties have welcomed the verdict, terming it as a huge a victory for environmental justice in Tamil Nadu.

In a significant development, the Madras High Court on Tuesday, August 18, refused to allow reopening of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper Plant at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu.

A Division Bench of Justices TS Sivagnananam and Bhuvani Subbaroyan dismissed the plea filed by Vedanta challenging the closure of the plant by the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) in 2018 on the ground of violations of environmental laws.

The Court also refused to accede to a request made by the Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram for Vedanta to maintain status quo for a few weeks, according to a report in Bar & Bench.

The Pollution Control Board had passed the closure order immediately after the plant had turned into a protest site, with citizens opposing the expansion of the plant. The order was supported by the State government, which endorsed the same within a week.

In February 2019, the Supreme Court set aside a December 2018 NGT order that had allowed the reopening of the Sterlite plant. However, the order was set aside on the ground that the NGT did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the case. Therefore, Vedanta was allowed to move the High Court against the orders passed against it, leading to the present plea.

Leaders of various political parties and the Green activists have welcomed the verdict, terming it as a huge relief for residents in villages around the plant who have been protesting against it for over two decades. They also described it as a victory for environmental justice in the state.

MDMK leader Vaiko, who has been lending his support to the fight against the plant in his capacity as activist as well as lawyer, was quoted by News Minute as saying, “It’s a victory for all the people of Thoothukudi, a victory for the 13 people who were shot dead. Politically, this victory belongs to the DMK.” The MDMK chief argued on behalf of the residents during public consultations held by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

DMK MP from Thoothukudi district, Kanimozhi said, "The Madras High Court has refused to permit reopening of the Thoothukudi Sterlite plant. The verdict has made us realise that the growth we get by selling the environment is dangerous. The DMK welcomes this verdict. This is a victory people have secured after many giving up their lives also."

The people around the planted greeted the HC verdict by bursting crackers. K Balakrishnan of the CPI(M) said that the murder of 13 people could have been avoided if the government had listened to the demands of the people before. “People have been fighting against Sterlite there for at least 15 years. CPI (M) welcomes this verdict and this victory should be dedicated to the lives lost in firing,” said the News Minute report.

Naam Thamizhar chief Seeman also welcomed the verdict. He said, “This is not an instant victory, people have fought for years. But this is not enough. No action has been taken against a single policeman who shot 13 people dead.”

Sreenivasan of BJP said, “AIADMK and DMK helped Sterlite plant and BJP has always supported the High Court verdict. We have always opposed Sterlite. Our former MP Pon Radhakrishnan has also worked for the closure of the plant.” he however added that the courts will have to consider the shortage of copper in the country, following the closure of the plant.

Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said, “Madras High Court has upheld the view of AIADMK government to not allow the Sterlite plant to function. It is the government's position that the Sterlite factory be permanently closed. The court has confirmed this. This is to be welcomed.”

Actor and leader of the Makkal Needhi Maiam party Kamal Haasan tweeted, “The verdict that the Sterlite closure will continue is justice begotten from the sacrifice of many lives. I have stood nearby as a brother and felt the necessity for this verdict and their pain. This is yet another example that the people's voice will triumph.”

Image Credit: News Minute

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