Tuticorin: The Supreme Court has paved the way for the re-opening of Vedanta's Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin, which was at the centre of massive protests over pollution concerns, by refusing to stay the green tribunal order that had set aside the Tamil Nadu government's decision to close it.

The apex court also stayed the December 21, 2018 decision of the Madurai bench of Madras High Court which had ordered status quo in respect of re-opening the plant.

"The impugned order dated December 21, 2018 passed by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court shall remain stayed," a bench comprising Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha said.

"The directions that have been passed by the National Green Tribunal, by its judgment dated December 15, 2018, will continue to subsist and will be subject to the ultimate outcome of the appeal," it said.

The top court also sought response from Vedanta on the state government's appeal against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order to reopen the plant.

Tamil Nadu had moved the top court saying that the NGT had "erroneously" set aside various orders passed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) last year with regard to the Sterlite plant.

It had said the tribunal had consequentially directed the TNPCB to pass fresh orders of renewal of consent and issue authorisation to handle hazardous substances to the Vedanta Limited.

On December 15 last year, the NGT had set aside the state government's order for closure of the Sterlite copper plant, saying it was "non sustainable" and "unjustified"

At least 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 last year when police had opened fire on a huge crowd of people protesting against environment pollution being allegedly caused by the factory.

The Tamil Nadu government had, on May 28 last year, ordered the state pollution control board to seal and "permanently" close the mining group's copper plant following violent protests over pollution concerns.