Chennai: The Vedanta Limited has informed the Madras high court that the state government has yielded to the pressures from NGOs and activist groups operating for their own ulterior purposes and profits and as a knee-jerk reaction rejected the consents and directed closing down and disconnection of power supply of its Copper Smelter Plant in Thoothukudi district.
Satyapriya, the general manager-legal of Vedanta Limited, stated this in his rejoinder filed in response to the counter affidavit filed by the Tamil Nadu government. The state government had filed its counter in response to the petitions filed by Vedanta Limited, challenging the orders of closure and refusal of consent, passed by the state government and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
The final hearing of the main and miscellaneous petitions is scheduled to begin tomorrow before a division bench comprising Justices T.S.Sivagnanam and V. Bhavani Subaroyan. Satyapriya said, “It is denied that there were protests from the locals and wide spread agitations, protests, complaints to the state on a continuous basis except for the orchestrated protest in 2018. In fact, the Inspection Reports of the year 2016, 2017 and 2018 furnished by the joint chief environmental engineer of TNPCB for the three consecutive years preceding the impugned orders would show that there were no complaints received against the petitioner unit”.
He said it was denied that the state government took a policy decision on May 28, 2018, for permanent closure of the unit. It was unfortunate that in instant proceedings the state government was taking adversarial position and was not considering the representations from more than 1.55 lakh people supporting the opening and restart of the petitioner unit. “The only emergency for closing the petitioner unit was to appease a section of public after the incident of police firing in Tuticorin on May 22, 2018”, he added.
He said the state has willingly succumbed to public outcry and passed arbitrary orders impugned herein without following due legal processes while treating the petitioner's unit with prejudice. The TNPCB was under a legal obligation to provide a reasonable opportunity of being heard before refusing a further consent as prescribed under section 21 (4) of the Air Act and Rule 34 of the Water Rules. The attempt of the state was to take the protection of a “policy decision”, so as to circumvent the statutory requirements, restrictions and mandate of the Air and Water Act as also to seek to limit the grounds of challenge to the same before this court, he added.
“The petitioner unit has been contributing to the tune of `2,000-2,500 crore per annum to the state exchequer and has helped the state government through its regular contribution in the socio-economic upliftment of the communities around its plant. The approach of the state government towards the petitioner will destabilize the investment into the state. The conclusion arrived at by the TNPCB that the other industries are not directly responsible for the pollution around Thoothukudi and the same is solely attributable to petitioner is wrong and misleading statement and has been arrived at with prejudice in instant adversarial proceedings” he added.
He said Thoothukudi houses the largest capacity of power plants (5,000 MW) in a single city within Tamil Nadu and hence emission SOX, NOX and SPM and RSPM are relatively higher and has huge human development concerns which has been ignored by the state government while targeting the petitioner. “TN CM in various press releases has stated that there were anti-social elements in the protests. The government and TNPCB have relied on some unverified material from online sources and have submitted the same before the court without any proof. The Chief Minister also gave a statement that anti-social element were behind the mass protest, which led to police firing,” he added.