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Sterlite protest: Madras High Court stays expansion of Sterlite plant

The Madurai bench of Madras High Court on Wednesday stopped the construction of a new copper smelter by Sterlite industries.

The stay on construction came a day after 11 people were killed and over 65 injured after police fired on the protesters who were demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi over pollution concerns.

In today’s hearing, the HC ordered a halt in the expansion works at the plant and ordered a public hearing of the matter.

According to the police, Section 144 of CrPC has been invoked in and around the unit as per the orders of the Madras High Court.

Meanwhile, Sterlite Copper said its factory in Tuticorin district is currently non-functional and the company is awaiting approval from the authorities to resume operations at the site. Sterlite said the facility has been shut since March 27 when the company took up annual scheduled maintenance.

The firm’s application to renew its licence to operate the copper smelter facility was rejected by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

Expressing sorrow at the loss of lives, Sterlite in a statement said it has appealed to the government to ensure safety of employees, facilities and the surrounding communities.

Following the incident, the Centre today asked the state government to provide details of the incident at Tuticorin.

Union Home Ministry officials said the ministry is in touch with the state government over the developments in the port town of the southern state.

The three month-long protest by locals demanding closure of Sterlite Copper unit of Vedanta Group turned violent yesterday with agitators pelting stones and toppling police vehicles after they were prevented from marching towards the plant.

Following the shooting, the protesters tried to ‘gherao’ the collector’s office and torched vehicles inside the premise. Police officials resorted to lathi-charge and tear gas to disperse the crowd to contain the tense situation.

Terming the killings of the protesters as a “cold-blooded murder”, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) demanded the resignation of CM Edappadi K Palaniswami.

“What happened in Thoothukudi is a cold-blooded murder by police. They should be booked for murder and SP, Collector, DGP and Chief Secretary should be suspended. Taking moral responsibility, CM Edappadi K Palaniswami should resign,” PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss said.
Condemning the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)-led State government for the unrest and the deaths, Kamal Hasaan’s Makkal Needhi Maiamblamed the government for the unrest in the state. Hassan will be visiting the site of the incident later today.
The party in its statement said, “The peaceful protest by the people of Thoothukudi against Sterlite, demanded justice was ignored by the Governments. Negligence of the Governments is the reason for all the unfortunate incidents. Citizens are not criminals. They are the ones who lose their lives, earlier due to Sterlite and now due to the Government’s orders.”

Sterlite Copper represents the copper unit of Vedanta Ltd which operates a four lakh tonne per annum plant at Tuticorin.

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