Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Limited moved to Supreme Court on Wednesday after the Madras High Court refused to allow reopening of Sterlite Copper plant at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu, a Vedanta official told the Moneycontrol.
The division bench of Madras High Court at Chennai on August 18 had dismissed all the writ petitions filed by the metals and mining company.
The judgement was pronounced through video conferencing on a petition filed by Vedanta challenging the refusal by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to operate and against the permanent closure order passed by the Tamil Nadu government.
“Vedanta Limited is taking advice from its legal counsel and taking urgent steps to approach Supreme Court and appeal against the order of the division bench of Madras High Court,” the company said after the decision of the Madras High Court.
Vedanta's special leave petition in the Supreme Court requested the court to issue an interim direction directing the respondents to grant the petitioner access and permissions to the petitioner’s unit in order to undertake essential care and maintenance activities.
The company also sought direct interim stay of the judgment passed by the Madras High Court to the extent of restraining the respondent authorities from taking any actions to give effect to the permanent closure of the plant.
According to Vedanta, the Madras High Court verdict has come as an utter shock to the employees of Sterlite Copper and thousands of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and community members dependent on our continued operations.
“We firmly believe in the safe and environmentally sound nature of our operations and were really hopeful of getting the go ahead from the Hon High Court to restart the plant. Our plea, backed by all key data and relevant proof points, clearly showed that Sterlite Copper operations were fully compliant with all norms including those related to environment. At no point in our operations were any concerns about pollution raised by the appropriate authorities,” said the company in a statement after the verdict.
When asked for comments, a Vedanta spokesperson declined to offer any additional comment on the matter.
When operational, Sterlite Copper was meeting nearly 40 percent of India’s demand for the metal and the country was a net exporter. However, the shutdown of Sterlite Copper has turned India into an importer of Copper in the last two years.
“We will also continue to fight falsehoods being spread by certain vested interests against our operations, who are also inimical to India’s self-reliance. The local communities will continue to live in dismal conditions without proper means of livelihood as they have pinned all their hope on the opening of Sterlite Copper. Our nation will continue to have to rely on imports, leading to not only outflow of precious foreign exchange but also loss of thousands of job opportunities,” said the Vedanta statement.
On June 4, 2020, Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting permission to restart Sterlite Copper plant. In the letter, Agarwal cited that Islamabad’s copper shipments to China increased 400 percent in the last three years to $550 million last year, boosting Pakistan’s local economy at the cost of India.
According to Agarwal, India has lost over Rs 40,000 crore due to closure of this plant, of which $1.2 billion was lost in foreign exchange alone.
Vedanta’s 20-year old Sterlite Copper plant and 7-year old thermal power plant at Thoothukudi was shut down by the Tamil Nadu government in May 2018 after violent protests by the residents alleging health hazards.
Vedanta shares were trading down 0.77 percent at Rs 128 in a firm Mumbai market on Thursday, valuing the company at Rs 47,636 crore.Piyush Pandey is a journalist based in Mumbai.