Lawyers for Vedanta Resources made an appeal to England’s Supreme Court that the case raised against them be heard in Zambia instead of London earlier on this week.
India-listed Vedanta is appealing a lower court ruling that a case in which nearly 2,000 villagers alleged their land was polluted by a Vedanta unit could be heard in England. According to media reports, the two-day hearing will be watched by other multinational companies with a base in London and facing legal challenges about their operations abroad from local residents.
Furthermore, according to court officials, England’s highest court is not expected to deliver a judgment for several weeks.
Vendanta, which delisted from London last year still maintains a legal base in Britain. The lawyers argued that Zambia was the “natural forum” for the case. They also maintained that the parent company did not control operations in Zambia, which were governed by Zambian law.
In 2017, London’s Court of Appeal had found that nearly 2,000 Zambian citizens from Zambia’s Copperbelt had the right to sue Vedanta in the English courts. Vedanta is challenging this. The villagers allege their land and livelihood have been destroyed by water pollution caused by the Nchanga Copper Mine, owned by Vedanta through its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines.
On the other hand, London law firm Leigh Day has argued that the English courts were the only route for the villagers to achieve justice. In another case, Leigh Day is seeking the right to appeal to the Supreme Court after a lower court found Nigerians could not pursue a claim against Royal Dutch Shell in London. The case is in relation to oil spills in Nigeria’s Delta region.
Outside the court, action group Foil Vedanta was among those protesting against what they allege is pollution by Vedanta. In an emailed statement, Foil Vedanta campaigner Samarendra Das said that while the financial and material gains from copper have been allowed to flow seamlessly out of the country, justice risks being restricted by economic and institutional barriers of territoriality.