The Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd has petitioned the National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, seeking to set aside the order of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) shutting its copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi.
The matter came up for hearing on Monday before a bench comprising judicial member Justice M Chockalingam and expert member Prof. Nagendran. Senior counsel T R Rajagopalan argued that the impugned orders had been passed without providing an opportunity of being heard to the Sterlite Industries.
Contending that the impugned order had been issued in gross violation of natural justice and in “unseemly haste”, Sterlite alleged that the authority had failed to consider inter alia the crucial fact that the calibration gases were not released into the atmosphere.
Claiming that the District Collector had himself issued a press release stating that SO2 emission was within limits, Sterlite said it produced more than 55 per cent of India’s copper requirement.
“The unit employs 1,000 permanent workers and about 3,500 contract labourers, besides providing employment indirectly to 15,000. All of them would be left in the lurch and without remuneration if the unit remain closed,” the company said in its plea.
It also challenged another order of the pollution board that directed disconnection of electricity supply.
Advocate General A L Somayaji said the unit had been functioning after getting directions from courts. In a related case, the Supreme Court is set to pronounce orders. On Monday, when the matter was mentioned in the Supreme Court, the top court said the TNPCB was well within its rights on the issue.
Underlining that the District Collector had received representations from the people of Meelavattan, Anna Nagar, Bryant Nagar and Twipuram complaining of eye irritation, continuous cough and chocking, Somayaji said, “it is serious matter involving public health. Only considering health hazards, the TNPCB ordered the closure of the unit.”
After perusing the documents and hearing the arguments of both the parties, the bench directed the counsel for the District Collector and the TNPCB to file their respective counters. The matter has been posted to April 9 for further hearing.