CHENNAI: The National Green Tribunal has allowed MDMK leader Vaiko and two others to implead in a petition filed by Sterlite Industries Ltd, a subsidiary of mining giant Vedanta, challenging the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s order to close the unit. The southern bench, headed by Judge M Chokkalingam and technical member Prof R Nagendran, posted hearing of the case to Friday. The respondents, who would be impleading in the case, along with Tuticorin district collector, were directed to file counters the same day.

The crisis-ridden plant in Tuticorin in southern Tamil Nadu got relief from the Supreme Court last week when it ordered Sterlite Industries to pay 100 crore as compensation for environmental damage in the unit’s surroundings. The court did not uphold closure of the plant.

Immediately after taking up the case, Justice Chokkalingam took objections to certain remarks made by the collector to the media regarding permanent closure of the unit. The counsel representing the collector said he did not file the counter on Tuesday and sought more time, while Tamil Nadu pollution control board and Tangedco officials had done so. Criticizing the collector for speaking to the media, the judge said, “He (collector) does what he shouldn’t and doesn’t, what he should.” The judge said that when the matter was pending before the courts of law, the collector had made unwarranted remarks to the media. “It is highly irresponsible.”

In his petition, Vaiko said the appeal by Sterlite challenging the PCB’s closure order was not maintainable and liable to be rejected. “The petitioner did not file any appeal before the appellate authority. The Green Tribunal is vested with jurisdiction to entertain any appeal only against the order passed by the appellate authority,” the petition said. Vaiko also submitted the analysis data on Sterlite’s emission levels by Mark L Chernaik, staff scientist with the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, Oregon, USA, to support his case, that Sterlite not only polluted the air in and around the vicinity of the plant, but also formed plumes at the ground level that would have travelled with prevailing winds.

In her petition, a Tuticorin resident, Fathima Babu, said Sterlite had been functioning in a reckless manner with impunity. In March alone, she said three accidents occurred in the plant. “By totally denying the emissions and breach of conditions, the unit has also denied people of timely medical aid,” the petition said, adding that it was most disturbing that local residents were suffering the adverse health effects with a sense of helplessness.