The Supreme Court on Friday will hear a petition filed by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) challenging the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, which allowed opening of the Sterlite Industries copper smelting plant at Tutucorin.
The NGT passed the interim order on May 31, setting aside the TNPCB’s order directing Sterlite to shut down its unit. The plant, which has a capacity to produce 4 lakh tonnes of copper annually, was shut down on March 30 by the TNPCB over an alleged gas leak.
In its appeal before the Supreme Court, TNPCB has challenged the jurisdiction of the NGT in deciding the matter and said that this requires an authoritative and final pronouncement from the apex court.
The board contended that the NGT has entertained an appeal by the Sterlite Industries on an order passed under Section 31 A of The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 of the TNPCB. Hence, the appeal filed by the Sterlite Industries was not maintainable as an order passed under Section 31 A of the Air Act is appealable before the Appellate Authority under Section 31 of the same Act.
On the date the Principal Bench of the NGT entertained the appeal, an Appellate Authority had been constituted by Tamil Nadu and the NGT ought to have sent the appeal to the said Appellate Authority, the TNPCB said. It further stated that the impugned interim order is a contradiction in itself as on one hand, the NGT reserved the judgment in the main order, but on the other passed the interim order.
This is a very peculiar procedure. The NGT has also constituted a committee consisting of Member Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board, Member Secretary, TNPCB and two members of the IIT Madras who were the part of the inspecting committee to look into the functioning of the unit and to file a report by 10 of July 2013, the TNPCB stated.
Sterlite, meanwhile, welcomed an expert committee set up by NGT to examine its procedures. “The Sterlite Copper welcomes the expert committee appointed by the NGT to its copper smelter in Thoothukudi,” the copper smelting unit said in a press statement.
“While Sterlite copper is not very profitable due to the nature of its business model, we are committed to developing this industry on account of its contribution to the employment both direct and indirect as well as development of ancillary industries. We remain dedicated to best global standards of environment,” it added.