In a major setback to the Vedanta Group that owns the Sterlite copper smelting plant in Tuticorin, the Madras High Court has ordered staus quo, putting on hold the recent relief granted by the National Green Tribunal permitting reopening of the plant. The case would be heard again on January 21 and Sterlite cannot attempt to reopen the factory. The court also directed the government to respond if it would appeal against the green court (NGT) order or not.
This order has come on a petition filed by environmentalist Fathim Babu who had cited pending cases against Sterlite over violations and alleged leak of the NGT's order on a website of group close to Sterlite group. She also raised the issue of the NGT denying her an opportunity to be heard as an intervenor and that the verdict was not delivered in the open court and there was no mention of it even in the cause-list, violating the Supreme Court's order.
Henry Tiphagne, Executive Director of People's Watch, says, “The orders were uploaded on the NGT website at 2 PM but the same was uploaded on the site of Sterlite's ad and PR agency as early as 7:39 AM. This raises serious questions. We presented clear evidence for this violation.”
Initially, the petition was posted only to decide its maintainability, taking into account that appeals against NGT orders normally go to the Supreme Court. However, this morning the court admitted and heard it after the petitioner raised questions of trust and faith over institutions of justice citing Advocate Vaigai, the counsel for the petitioner.
The Tamil Nadu government had shut down the plant citing violations and health hazard after 13 people died in police firing in May when more than a lakh people gathered demanding permanent closure of the plant.
Sterlite has all along denied these allegations. Only yesterday it had announced a 100 crore package for educational, health and community development initiatives including a smart school and hospital. The Tamil Nadu government too has decided to appeal against the NGT order.
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