SC to expedite hearing of Orissa's plea on Sterlite
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday agreed to expedite its hearing of Orissa Government's appeal against the Centre's decision to withdraw its environmental clearance to Vedanta group firm Sterlite for its bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills.
A special forest bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad said it would take up the matter for final disposal before the ensuing summer vacation after senior counsel K K Venugopal submitted that the "investment and rehabilitation measures was being affected" on account of the Centre's act of withdrawing the clearance.
Appearing for the state, Venugopal said the "matter needs to be expeditiously" heard by the bench and alleged that the decision to withdraw the clearance was done by the Centre in an arbitrary manner.
He submitted that the order was passed a day before the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh was shifted to the Rural Development Ministry in July last year.
The apex court had earlier in August last year had refused to accord any early hearing on the matter but had posted the appeal for final disposal in January this year.
Venogopal, pleaded that the matter be adjudicated at the earliest as the multinational company is withholding the amount to be invested for the development of tribal areas in the light of uncertainty of the project.
In its appeal, the state had submitted that it had planned to build schools and dispensaries in the tribal areas around the mining site, which the company had promised to fund.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the state government and the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) challenging the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) decision to revoke its forest clearance to the project.
The Orissa government had moved the apex court on August 1 against the Centre's move accusing it of withdrawing the environmental clearance in an "arbitrary manner".
The order "has been passed in a wholly arbitrary manner and "it was difficult to understand the need and urgency for issuing the present order of July 11 (2011) to withdraw the environmental clearance itself," the OMC had said in its plea.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) withdrew the clearance a day before the Cabinet reshuffle, which had seen Jairam Ramesh moving to rural development ministry from Environment Ministry.