On 18 February 2019, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India in the case of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board v Sterlite Industries (I) Ltd & Ors set aside the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which had permitted re-opening of the Vedanta-Sterlite copper smelter plant at Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu only on the grounds of maintainability. This judgment of the Supreme Court brings some clarity on the jurisdictional aspects of the NGT arising out of various provisions of the Air Act and Water Act.
The dispute over the operation of the Vedanta-Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu highlights the fact that the environmental compliance regime in India is witnessing a shift from being a “technical” issue to one, where a community’s perception and expectations are gaining a significant position in the discourse. It may be appropriate to say that if such a shift continues, environmental and social concerns will increasingly pose substantial risks to doing business in India.
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