New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court will Tuesday (April 2) pronounce its verdict on the fate of the Sterlite Industries’ copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin, which was ordered to halt its operations in 2010 by Madras High Court for violating environment norms.
The verdict will be pronounced by a bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice H.L. Gokhale.
Sterlite, which had described the high court order as “draconian”, had told the apex court that it was a public limited company with 2.3 lakh shareholders, 1,100 employees, 2,500 people employed indirectly and an annual turn over of Rs.13,000 crore.
It said the company was meeting 50 percent of the domestic requirements of copper and was contributing Rs.1,600 crore by way of taxes. Sterlite Industries was the largest manufacturer of copper in the country and even exported it, it added.
In the course of the hearing that was spread over several weeks, the apex court had asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to carry out detailed inspection of the plant and its site.
CPCB counsel Vijay Panjvani said Sterlite spent Rs.150 crore for putting in place new pollution control devices to overcome the deficiencies in its pollution control measures as suggested to it by different agencies mandated to protect the environment.
The Madras High Court by its Sep 28, 2010 order had directed the immediate closure of the plant, nut the apex court, by its interim order of Oct 1, 2010, stayed its operation.
Besides the closure, the high court had also directed the payment of compensation to Sterlite’s employees as per the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act.
Tuticorin’s district collector was also directed to take all necessary and immediate steps for the re-employment of the workers in some other companies, factories or organizations.
Challenging the high court order, Sterlite Industries contended that it was passed on a PIL filed in 1994, pointing to then alleged deficiencies in the compliance of the statutory environmental provisions.
It said that though the hearing on the PIL was concluded in January 2010, it was eight months after on Sep 28, 2010, that the high court passed the order directing the immediate shut down of the company.
While ordering the plant’s closure, the high court had noted that it was within 25 km of an ecologically fragile area.