No relief to Vedanta: Supreme Court sets aside NGT judgement, asks parties to approach Madras HC

Tamil Nadu government, in its petition challenging NGT judgement, main contention was the maintainability of Sterlite plea before NGT and its subsequent order.

Published: 18th February 2019 11:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th February 2019 12:36 PM   |  A+A-

Thoothukudi Sterlite plant

Vedanta's Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant in Tuticorin. (File | Reuters)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) judgement, which allowed reopening of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper in Thoothukudi, on maintainability.

Without going into the merits of the case, the Apex Court observed that the tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to entertain Vedanta appeals against Tamil Nadu government order and asked Vedanta to approach Madras High Court for interim relief.  

Tamil Nadu government, in its petition challenging NGT judgement, said that the main contention was the maintainability of Sterlite plea before NGT and its subsequent order.

Soon after the top court pronounced its order celebrations went off in Thoothukudi led by anti-Sterlite groups.

"NGT does not have the jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the validity of a Government Order and that the Constitutional Courts alone have the power and the jurisdiction to do so. The finding of the tribunal that the Government Order is not a policy matter is erroneous and not within the jurisdiction of the tribunal", the petition read. The government also objected to NGT Committee's overreach and calling government orders "not sustainable". 

However, NGT in its judgement said there was no ground to reject the Sterlite appeal on maintainability. The bench headed by NGT chairman Justice AK Goel said there was no bar to exercise of powers of the Appellate Authority by the tribunal. "As noted, the TNPCB Appellate Authority has declined to proceed with the matter. The grounds in the impugned orders are identical. If the appeals are held to be not maintainable, the appellant (Sterlite) will be without any remedy against the order of closure. We, thus, do not find any merit in this case in the objections of the respondent (TN)," the bench said.  

However, when the maintainability issue came-up before SC during the course of arguments, the bench favoured the state government. "We are happy with the judgement. Our stand has been vindicated," top government officials told Express.

It may be recalled that pollution control board has rejected Sterlite's CTO application on April 9, 2018 and on May 22, during the anti-Sterlite project, 13 people died in police firing following which State government has ordered for permanent closure of the plant on May 28.

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