The press note that the Thoothukudi Collector issued a day after the alleged sulphur dioxide leak from the Sterlite plant drew flak at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday.
In fact, the document became a crucial point for the company’s arguments, which said that it was a testament of the fact that no emission standards were exceeded.
The press note said emissions from the plant was within limits. However, in his counter affidavit, the Collector argued that the press release was issued to bring out the preliminary details of the incident. “Important objective was to avoid panic so as to avoid knee-jerk law and order problem,” the counter read. This press release drew criticism from the bench comprising judicial member Justice M Chockalingam and expert member R Nage-ndran. “If he wanted to allay apprehensions, he could have stopped by saying that there was no need for fear and everything was under control. What is the necessity to issue such a release stating there were no high emissions?” asked Justice Chockalingam.
But the Collector was not alone. The TNPCB too received criticism for its position that over 80 emission violations had occurred in the plant between October 2012 and March 2013. “Why was no action taken all through? Why no show cause,” asked the bench. It also dismissed TNPCB’s argument that action wasn’t taken as the previous incidents did not result in health issues among the public.