April 24, 2021 2:33:10 am
The Supreme Court on Friday expressed displeasure over the Tamil Nadu government’s opposition to a proposal to reopen the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi district to manufacture medical oxygen to meet the shortfall for Covid-19 patients, saying that the state cannot cite law and order issues at a time when people are dying due to oxygen shortage.
“When people are dying, Tamil Nadu cannot say you cannot open because of law and order issue,” a bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde said. “You please be sure that we are not interested if Vedanta Ltd (which owns the plant) or a, b, c, d runs it. We are concerned with oxygen being produced.”
The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat told Senior Advocate C S Vaidyanathan, who appeared for the state government, “Why don’t you fulfil your responsibility in manufacturing oxygen? Just because you have a problem with Vedanta you will not manufacture oxygen? What kind of argument is this?”
Vaidyanathan told the bench that the ground situation is such that there are apprehensions of law and order problems. In 2018, protests over the plant had led to deaths in police firing, he pointed out, adding the state did not want a repeat of such instances.
When the bench asked why the state could not take over and make oxygen, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves said that Tamil Nadu had taken over the plant since the last three years.
CJI Bobde responded, “The whole point is Indians need it. This is no way to look at it just because you are in surplus and will not manufacture…Constitution says material resources have to be equitably distributed.”
Vaidyanathan sought some more time to consult with the state and get back to court. He also pointed out that even the Centre can run the plant under the Disaster Management Act.
Agreeing to the request for time, the court asked the Tamil Nadu government to file an affidavit and fixed the matter for hearing on April 26.
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