Chennai: The National Green Tribunal Thursday appointed a four-member committee, including top scientists from IIT Madras, to undertake a study of Sterlite Industries copper smelter plant in Tuticorin in the wake of the alleged noxious gas leak from it last month.
Justice R Chockalingam, heading the tribunal, said the committee would submit its report on April 29 on the status of the plant.
"We want to know the present status of the plant. That is why we have appointed the expert committee," he said.
The two IIT Professors, P S T Sai and Liji Philip, are of national repute and experts in their fields, he said.
The Tribunal has also appointed D Sumathi, representing Sterlite Industries, and R Mohan Naidu on behalf of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
To a question on whether the Vedanta Group company had deposited Rs 100 crores as directed by the Supreme Court, the company's counsel Krishnan said they were yet to do so.
"No. Not yet. We have time," he said.
The Supreme Court had on April 2 asked Sterlite Industries to pay Rs 100 crore as compensation for polluting the environment through its plant and to pay the amount over three months from that day to the District Collector of Tuticorin.
The Tribunal also sought to know why not even a single medical report had been filed till date on the alleged gas leak on March 23, which caused mild suffocation, sore throat and eye irritation to several people in the area.
On undertaking a visit to study the plant by one of its members, Chockalingam said they did not want to set a precedent by sending one of the judges to inspect the plant.
"This may become a practice in future for other cases also," he observed.
"After the report is submitted, copies will be distributed to you. After reading it, the points raised by you will be noted (by us) before pronouncing the order.
"It does not mean we have to prevail upon the report (submitted by the committee). We may adopt it or we may reject it, before pronouncing the order," he said.
Sterlite Industries had sought a stay on the March 30 TNPCB order to close down the unit for posing health hazards after protests by locals. The company had claimed its plant adhered to required safety norms.