The Supreme Court has asked Sterlite Industries, a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Group, to pay Rs 100 crore as compensation for polluting environment through its copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu, but refused to direct its closure.
A bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik said the environment has been polluted for a long time due to the discharge from the Tuticorin plant of the multinational company and it has to pay compensation.
Imposing the compensation on the company, the bench said the "amount less than Rs 100 crore would not have the desired impact" and asked the company to pay the fine in five years.
The court also said the compensation "must act as deterrent" and the amount of compensation should be decided on the basis of financial strength of the company.
It, however, refused to direct closure of the plant and set aside the Madras High Court's 2010 order
on closing it down.
The Supreme Court has directed Sterlite Industries to pay the compensation amount to the District Collector of Tuticorin.
According to lawyers, the judgment would have no bearing on Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board's (TNPCB) direction of March 30, 2013, to shut down the copper plant
in the wake of alleged noxious gas leak from it, as the apex court's verdict is confined to the high court's 2010 order.
Sterlite Industries 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.
The company, in its special leave petition against the order, had claimed that the high court did not give it a proper hearing and had ignored its submissions.
The apex court had on October 1, 2010
, in an interim direction, stayed the operation of the Madras High Court order directing closure of the industry.
TNPCB's March 30 order came a week after an unspecified gas had allegedly leaked from the plant on March 23. The gas leak had caused mild suffocation, sore throat and eye irritation to several people in the area.
Thereafter, on instructions of the District Collector of Tuticorin, TNPCB had issued a direction to the Vedanta group company to close down the plant. Sterlite Industries had on Monday moved the National Green Tribunal challenging the TNPCB directive.Shares of Sterlite Industries
were trading 3.62 per cent higher at Rs 92.95 in afternoon trade at the Bombay Stock Exchange.