Panel inspects Sterlite plant, Vaiko files review petition

Chennai, April 23 (IANS) The expert panel set up by the National Green Tribunal Tuesday began inspection of the controversial copper smelter plant of Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd at Tuticorin, said a company official.

“The expert panel visited the plant today (Tuesday) morning. The heat-up process has begun in order to restart the plant and do the trial production. It will take around two days to run the plant for trial production,” the official told IANS over phone from Tuticorin, around 650 km from here.

On April 18, the tribunal ordered setting up of an expert panel headed by P.S.T. Sai, professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras to inspect the 400,000 ton per annum copper smelter plant belonging to the London-based Vedanta Resources Group.

The tribunal was hearing an appeal from Sterlite Industries against the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s (TNPCB) order to shut down the plant in Tuticorin, for leakage of sulphur dioxide last month.

The tribunal had said the panel would submit its report by April 29.

The committee will inspect various equipments in the copper smelter plant that Sterlite will run for it and not for commercial production.

The TNPCB had March 30 ordered closure of the smelter plant after sulphur-di-oxide leaked from the plant March 23, affecting a large number of residents of Tuticorin.

Sterlite has appealed against the closure order before the tribunal.

Meanwhile. MDMK general secretary Vaiko has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against its April 2 order of setting aside an earlier Madras High Court order shutting down the smelter plant.

“The review petition was filed today (Tuesday) in the Supreme Court,” G. Devadoss, MDMK’s legal wing secretary, told IANS.

According to the review petition, Sterlite Industries operated the plant without valid permission and concealed and mis-represented that fact in its special leave petition (SLP) filed in the Supreme Court.

The apex court in its order, however, asked Sterlite Industries to deposit Rs.100 crore with the authorities to make amends for the environmental damage caused from 1997 to 2012.

Pointing to the various violations of environmental norms, the court said: “For such damages caused to the environment from 1997 to 2012 and for operating the plant without a valid renewal (of licence) for a fairly long period, the appellant-company obviously is liable to compensate by paying damages.”

Vaiko in his review petition raised a question of law whether an industry that polluted the environment through emissions for a very long period if permitted, will have a right to pollute the environment by merely paying compensation.

He also asked whether the apex court’s judgment is a precedent that the status of the industry with regard to its income and tax payment or importance of the product manufactured is vital consideration for making a decision on environment protection.

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