Sterlite Copper Plant Case: Vaiko Breaks Down in Madras High Court During Hearing

Sterlite Copper Plant Case: Vaiko Breaks Down in Madras High Court During Hearing

The MDMK chief alleged that mercenaries were used to kill anti-Sterlite protesters during the 100th day of the agitation in Tuticorin last year.


Sohini Goswami

Chennai: MDMK chief Vaiko broke down twice in the Madras High Court on Thursday while narrating the sufferings of families of those who were killed in police firing during anti-Sterlite protests in Tuticorin last year.

He alleged that mercenaries were used to kill the anti-Sterlite protesters during the 100th day of the agitation.

Vaiko made the submissions before a bench of justices TS Sivagnanam and Bhavani Subbaroyan. He made the submissions as an impleading respondent opposing a plea by Vedanta, which owns Sterlite, challenging the closure of its copper smelter unit by the Tamil Nadu government in the aftermath of the violence.

On the reported pollution caused by the copper smelter unit, the Rajya Sabha member submitted that Sterlite had done unpardonable and grave damage to environment and people.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has finally woken up from its sleep after 23 long years. It was somersaulting almost every year, giving reports in favour of and against Sterlite, Vaiko said.

Earlier, Advocate General (AG) Vijay Narayan, representing the Tamil Nadu government, submitted that Sterlite, which had violated environmental statutes and caused irreparable damage to the environment could not claim that the closure order was passed with an ulterior motive.

In fact, the closure order should have been passed much earlier, he said. The actions taken against Sterlite are justified and have also prevented another gas leak from the factory, he said.

"The power and competence of the state government to issue the order of permanent closure traces to Section 18 of the Water Act and the state has an obligation to ensure that the environment and ecology are protected," Narayan said.

He noted that according to Article 48A of the Constitution, it was the paramount duty of the state to protect the environment. The AG said the state found that Sterlite was a persistent and chronic defaulter and after giving it a long rope, it was finally decided that it should be permanently closed.

When it came to environment, the rights of citizens will override the commercial interest of Sterlite, Narayan said. Recording the submissions, the bench posted the plea for further hearing on August 13.

Thirteen people were killed in police firing on May 22 and 23 last year after protests for closure of the Sterlite plant over pollution concerns turned violent in the port city of Tuticorin.

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