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Indian Case Summary

Tamil Nadu Polution Control Board vs Sterlite Industries (I) Ltd. . on 18 February, 2019 – Case Summary

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In the case of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board vs Sterlite Industries (I) Ltd., the Supreme Court of India examined a series of appeals arising from orders passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The case revolved around Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. / Vedanta Ltd., which operated a copper smelter plant at the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd. (SIPCOT) Industrial Complex at Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu.

The company had received a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and environmental clearances from the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEF) and the State MoEF. Despite these permissions, the environmental clearances were challenged in the Madras High Court.

In 2013, residents of nearby areas started complaining of health issues due to emissions from Sterlite Industries. The TNPCB issued a show-cause notice and directed the closure of the unit under Section 31A of the Air Act. This order was stayed by the NGT, allowing the company to commence production subject to certain conditions. The TNPCB appealed against this decision.

The NGT set aside the TNPCB order, leading to further appeals. The appellants argued that the respondent’s appeal before the NGT was not maintainable, stating that an appeal should have been filed first before the appellate authority under the Air Act / the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 [“NGT Act”]. This ground of maintainability was decided against the appellants by the impugned order dated 08.08.2013.

Due to various interim orders passed by the NGT, the respondent continued to operate its plant. However, in 2018, the TNPCB refused renewal of consent to operate to the respondent’s unit based on non-compliance with certain conditions that were laid down under the Air Act and the Water Act.

The NGT then constituted a Committee to go into the material produced by the parties to the Civil Appeal and to visit the site. The Committee concluded that the impugned orders could not be sustained as they were against the principles of natural justice. The NGT accepted the Committee’s recommendations and set aside the six impugned orders in the composite appeal.

The case was ultimately decided on the grounds of maintainability alone, with the Supreme Court hearing arguments from both sides on whether the NGT had jurisdiction to hear the appeals. The court’s decision on this matter is not included in the provided information.