The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday appointed a three-member committee headed by the former Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Tarun Agrawal to decide on Vedanta’s plea, challenging the closure of its Sterlite copper smelting plant in Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu).
A report published in the The Indian Express stated that a Bench headed by Chairperson AK Goel had earlier named former Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice SJ Vazifdar as head of the panel. However, he expressed inability to accept the appointment stating personal reasons.
“The matter has been put up on receipt of a communication from Justice SJ Vazifdar, the former Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court and the former Judge of Bombay High Court dated August 28 expressing inability to accept the appointment in terms of order dated August 20 for personal reasons,” the Bench noted.
The report further stated that the Bench directed that Justice SJ Vazifdar would be replaced by Justice Tarun Agrawal, former Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court and former Judge of Allahabad High Court. “All other terms of order dated August 20 will remain,” the Bench, also comprising Justices Jawad Rahim and SP Wangdi, said.
The committee will also include representatives from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The tribunal said that if there is any non-compliance of the order, the company would be at liberty to take its remedies or to point out the same before the committee. “Pending the finalisation of remuneration by the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu, the CPCB will provide immediate logistic support and organise the visit of Justice Tarun Agrawal, chairman of the committee, and other members to the site or to the venue of the hearing,” the Bench said.
In its earlier order, the Bench had said a credible mechanism, through which rival contentions can be balanced and final view taken, has to be evolved. It noted that it cannot be ignored that the copper smelting plant contributed to copper production in the country and employed 1,300 people.
“The committee can go into the material produced by the parties on the issue of environmental compliance as well as impact on inhabitants as perceived or actual,” the Bench said. It had directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to provide logistic support to the committee and said their remuneration would be determined by the State Government.