NGT Allows Vedanta To Make Representation To Expert Committee To To Enter Tuticorin Plant Amid Heated Exchanges
'Never seen s Senior Lawyer arguing like this': Justice AK Goel, 'Never seen such a Judicial Tribunal function like this': Senior Advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on Tuesday, allowed Vedanta Limited to make representation to the three-member Expert Committee to enter into its copper smelting unit in Tuticorin.
The tribunal passed the order on an application moved by the company seeking access to its Sterlite Copper plant and removal of the hazardous material lying therein.
Rohini Musa, counsel for Vedanta Limited, said, “We had moved an application seeking permission to go in and conduct the care and maintenance to comply with the CPCB recommendations and also to remove the stack material under the supervision of the expert committee as has been ordered by the NGT on the last date.”
“The NGT’s order of August 20 had specifically said that this can be removed but only under the supervision of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) member and that’s what the court allowed. But of course, we are waiting for the official copy of the order to be out,” Musa said.
The mining company’s counsel told the court that a large quantity of copper concentrate, having 30 per cent Sulphur, was lying inside the plant which needed to be taken care of.
The Tamil Nadu government opposed Vedanta’s application holding that the company was, in a way, asking to restart the production and that the maintenance of the unit was being taken care of by the District Collector under the supervision of the high-powered Committee constituted by the NGT headed by Justice (Retired) Tarun Agrawal and the technical members.
The government also said that on the last date, the NGT had denied it the permission and it was for the committee to hear the complaints.
When the bench, comprising Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice S.P. Wangdi and Expert Member, Dr. Nagin Nanda, said Vedanta may make representation to the expert committee, Senior Advocate, C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing on behalf of State of Tamil Nadu, raised strong opposition, asking why the company was being allowed to make representations to the committee.
Justice Goel remarked that he had never seen a senior lawyer arguing like this.
I have never seen a judicial tribunal function like this,” Vaidyanathan responded.“Allow us too. Why don’t you record in the order that you have rejected our request? I want you to record my protest", he continued.
The NGT had, on August 20, formed a committee under the Chairmanship of Justice S.J. Vazifdar, former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and former Judge of the Bombay High Court (who was later substituted by Justice Tarun Agrawal, former Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court and a former Judge of the Allahabad High Court on August 30) and a representative each from the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
The committee was entrusted to look into the claims of parties on the environmental compliances by Vedanta Limited and examine the impact on the inhabitants, as “perceived or actual”.
The panel was asked to decide the claims preferably within a period of six weeks after it resumed its working. The green court had also held that the recommendations of the CPCB may be carried out with respect to the status of the material stored in the unit’s premises as well as well as the inspection of the copper slag storage site near the Upper River.
The state government had shut down the unit for violating provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, among other environmental grounds and disconnected its power supply in May following violent protests in which 13 people were killed in police firing on May 22.
The Supreme Court, on September 10, refused to interfere with the NGT’s expert committee order and directed the NGT to hear the matter on merit and maintainability.
(With PTI inputs)