SC agrees to list plea of Sterlite copper unit of Tamil Nadu for hearing

The Supreme Court Monday said it has directed the registrar to allocate “two dedicated dates” for hearing the Vedanta group’s plea related to the closure of its Sterlite copper unit in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra took note of the submissions of a lawyer appearing for the firm that the plea needed expeditious disposal.

“I am well aware of the situation. I have already directed the Registrar to allocate two dedicated dates (for hearing),” the CJI said.

The top court had in May asked the Tamil Nadu government to take appropriate decisions in pursuance of its April 10 direction by which it had allowed the Vedanta group to carry out the upkeep of its Sterlite copper unit in Tuticorin under the supervision of a local-level monitoring committee.

In its April 10 order, the top court had also allowed the evacuation of the remaining gypsum at the plant and making available the required manpower as requested by the company.

It had noted that the district collector had not recommended activities like undertaking a civil and structural safety integrity assessment study in the plant premises, removal and transportation of spares and equipment and evacuation of in-process reverts and other raw materials lying idle.

“As regards the actions which were not recommended by the district collector, C S Vaidyanathan, senior counsel appearing on behalf of the State of Tamil Nadu, states that the state government will once again evaluate whether any further or supplementary directions should be issued in that regard,” the top court had noted in its April 10 order.

During the earlier hearing, the counsel for Tamil Nadu had said steps have already been taken for implementing the directions contained in one of the paragraphs of the April 10 order which stated that “as regards those actions which have been permitted to be carried out by the communication dated March 6, 2023, we allow necessary consequential steps to be taken”.

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“We direct that all decisions which are required to be taken in pursuance of the observations contained in paragraphs four and five of the order dated April 10, 2023, shall be taken by the state of Tamil Nadu on or before June 1, 2023,” the bench had said.

The apex court had then listed the plea for final disposal on August 22 and 23.

At least 13 people were killed and many injured on May 22, 2018, when police opened fire on a huge crowd of people protesting against environmental pollution allegedly caused by the copper smelting unit.

The Tamil Nadu government had on May 28, 2018, ordered the state pollution control board to seal and “permanently” close the mining group’s plant following violent protests over pollution concerns.

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