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Apex court extends shield for Sterlite’s Tamil Nadu plant

New Delhi, Oct 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday questioned the central government and extended its earlier interim order permitting Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter plant at Tuticorn in Tamil Nadu to continue its operations.

The apex court by its earlier interim order of Oct 1 stayed the operation of the Madras High Court verdict by which it had directed the closure of the plant on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed in 1996.

The court also issued notice to the central government.

‘You can’t close a running mill just like that,’ said an apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice H.L. Gokhale Monday.

‘You (high court) suddenly took cognizance of an environment related objection of the late 1990s (96, 97 and 98) that has since been cured and directed the closure of a running plant,’ the apex court said.

The court asked the Sterlite Industries to file an affidavit stating the steps taken by it to comply with the environment and pollution control objections raised against it by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).

The court chided the Sterlite Industries’ senior counsel C.A. Sundram for filing full one volume of the NEERI report that went in its favour and filing just four pages of synopsis of the two NEERI reports that were against it.

The senior counsel was directed to file the copies of the two NEERI reports that were adverse to the company.

While permitting Sterlite Industries to file additional documents, the court asked the (TNPCB) to file a status report. The matter will come up for hearing in the second week of December.

The petition by Sterlite Industries said that the high court passed the order on certain violation of pollution control and environment norms alleged in a PIL 14 years ago.

The high court passed the order even though the state government and the TNPCB told the court that Sterlite Industries was abiding by all statutory and other norms.

The apex court was told that the hearing on the petition was completed in January and eight months later on Sep 28, the high court passed the order directing the immediate shut down of the plant.

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