No prima facie case to stay Sterlite’s closure order, government tells Green Tribunal
Stating that Sterlite Industries Limited had continuously misrepresented facts about the functioning of its plant in Thoothukoodi, the State government on Thursday argued that there was no prima facie case for a stay of the closure order issued to the plant in March.
Representing the TNPCB and the Thoothukoodi Collector before the Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal, Advocate General A L Somayaji argued that the appeal of the company itself was not maintainable before the Tribunal given that it had not approached the TNPCB appellate authority before coming to the current forum.”The Tribunal cannot take over the jurisdiction of the appellate authority, “ he contended.
Even under a situation where the first appellate authority isn’t functional, he said the parties could only go to the High Court and seek remedy and cannot come directly to the Tribunal. Further, giving point-by-point rebuttal to Sterlite arguments, the AG pointed out that the company had misrepresented facts by maintaining that there was no excess emission at all on March 23, which led to the plant closure.
“It is amply clear even from their own affidavit that there was indeed excess emissions,” he said and added that a reason for this was being made out as calibration which was totally false. Infact, the plant had been a habitual violator which is borne out by the fact that there were 84 episodes of excess emissions between October 2012 and March 2013.
When the southern bench comprising judicial member Justice M Chockalingam and expert member R Nagendran questioned why no show cause was issued all the while and only the march 23 incident led to action by the TNPCB, Somayaji said inaction on previous occasions cannot be a reason to tell the regulator that action cannot be taken on the instant case. Neither will it absolve the company of failure to comply with norms. Also, other issues such as lack of complaints about health effects from public could have been a reason for the tolerance of the board to the violations, he said.
Further, the AG said the records of the TNPCB proved it beyond doubt that Sterlite was the only plant in the area emitting the noxious SO2 gas, which was the reason for the symptoms shown by people on March 23.
Earlier, the bench announced that two IIT Madras professors, PST Sai and Ligy Phillip,will constitute the experts committee that would inspect the plant and submit report to the Tribunal by April 29.