NGT panel conducts hearing on Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit in Thoothukudi

Police personnel baton charge at a protestor demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit, in Tuticorin. Photo: PTI
A three-member committee appointed by National Green Tribunal (NGT), Delhi, to assess the potential environmental impact of the Vedanta Group's Sterlite Copper unit in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, has been to the area in its three-day visit to the State. The committee, led by Tarun Agarwal, retired Chief Justice of the Meghalaya Court, is conducting a hearing in Chennai on Monday.

The NGT had set up the committee on August 20, to visit Thoothukudi, examine the technical data and submit a report on the issue. The Committee is expected to submit the report in six weeks. The committee conducted visit to Thoothukudi on Saturday and Sunday. It has conducted public hearing in Thoothukudi and took note of the allegations by various stakeholders during the visit.

The State government had earlier moved the Supreme Court against NGT's decision to set up a committee, arguing that the Vedanta Group firm's petition to the tribunal is not maintainable, and the remedy for Sterlite Copper was to approach the Madras High Court. However, the Supreme Court upheld NGT's order to form the committee and directed it to go ahead with the matter.

It may be recalled that the state government had ordered the closure of the copper smelter plant after 13 people were killed in police firing on May 22, when violence broke out during the protest by locals demanding closure of the plant.

The state government subsequently issued an order for "permanent closure" of the Sterlite copper smelter, following which, the company challenged it in the National Green Tribunal. NGT has allowed Sterlite access to the administrative block.

In mid-August, the Madras High Court ordered a time-bound inquiry into the police firing by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which appointing a special investigation team for the purpose. The Court said it was CBI's duty to get to the bottom of things and file such charge sheet/s, as the investigation reveals and necessitates. The probe has to be completed within four months of the receipt of the order, said a division bench consisting of Justice C T Selvam and Justice A M Basheer Ahamed.

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