Supreme Court of India. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Dec 3 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to entertain an interim plea by mining major Vedanta Ltd seeking permission to inspect and operate the Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin for four weeks to assess the pollution level. The plant was closed in May 2018.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the mining major, submitted before a bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman that Vedanta is producing 36 per cent to meet the copper demand of the country and it is a case of mala fide closure of the plant. Vedanta sought handing over of the plant for three months, as two months would be needed to start the unit, and in order to find out whether the plant is polluting the environment, the company should be allowed to run it for four weeks.

The Tami Nadu government objected to these submissions and submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices Navin Sinha and K. M. Joseph, that the plant has been polluting the environment consistently. Singhvi contended that the court should allow the company to run the plant, which would help ascertain whether the plant is polluting beyond the acceptable limit.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing some villagers in the vicinity of the plant, submitted that the unit should not be allowed to operate, as it is contaminates the water and people are suffering from diseases like cancer.

After a detailed hearing in the matter, the bench said, "Having heard Abhishek Manu Singhvi, C.S. Vaidyanathan, K.V. Viswanathan and Colin Gonsalves, all senior advocates, for some time, we are of the view that the relief(s) in this IA cannot be granted. Accordingly, this IA is dismissed." However, the top court said the main matter can come up for hearing after physical hearing resumes in the top court.

Vedanta had moved the top court in August against the Madras High Court order declining to allow the reopening of the Tuticorin plant. The high court had upheld the orders of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), which had directed the closure of the plant in May 2018.

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