New Delhi: Vedanta Group firm Sterlite Industries today welcomed the Supreme Court verdict that has asked the company to pay Rs 100 crore compensation for polluting environment by its copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu but the order refused to direct closure of the unit.
"We welcome the judgement given by the Supreme Court," Sterlite Industries said here after the judgement. It also said: "Sterlite Industries would continue to work in close association with the state government of Tamil Nadu and other regulatory bodies, towards maintaining highest standards of health, safety and environment."
A bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik today asked the company to pay a compensation of Rs 100 crore over a period of five years to the District Collector of Tuticorin, saying the environment has been polluted for a long time due to the discharge from the plant of the multinational company. The court said that the compensation "must act as deterrent" and the amount of compensation should be decided on the basis of financial strength of the company but refused to direct closure of the plant and set aside the Madras High Court's 2010 order on closing it down.
The court's judgement would, however, have no bearing on Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board's (TNPCB) direction of March 30, this year to shut down the copper plant in the wake of alleged gas leak from it, as the apex court's verdict is confined to the high court's 2010 order as per lawyers. Sterlite had moved the apex court against the order of the high court which had on September 28, 2010, ordered shutting down of the smelting plant for allegedly failing to comply with environmental norms. Meanwhile, Sterlite Industries has shut operations at its Tuticorin facility following an order by TNPCB which inspected the facility on public complaints of emission.
The company, however, yesterday said that all parameters and key readings on the day of inspection were well within permissible range and it will hold talks with Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to restart operations the plant. Sterlite Industries has been operating its copper smelter in Tuticorin for the past 17 years. The Tuticorin facility's production capacity stands at 400,000 tonnes per annum, while Sterlite contributes to about 50 percent of India's Copper Production.