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Monday, May 10, 2021

‘Can’t cite law and cause problems when country needs oxygen’: SC on Vedanta plea to make Sterlite plant operational

The Apex Court suggests the Tamil Nadu government to take over and run the plant to produce the required oxygen.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: April 23, 2021 2:36:12 pm
A Bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde was hearing the plea filed by Vedanta. (File Photo)

The Supreme Court, while hearing Vedanta Limited’s plea regarding making the Sterlite Plant in Tamil Nadu operational again for manufacturing medical oxygen, on Friday said it cannot cite law and invite problems at a time when the country is struggling for supply.

This comes after the apex court on Thursday called the Covid-19 situation as “almost a national emergency” and agreed to hear Vedanta’s petition on the ground that it would produce 1,000 tonnes of oxygen and give it free of cost for treatment of patients.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde suggested that Tamil Nadu can manufacture it and asked the state government to submit a proposed plan by Monday. “Why don’t you fulfill your responsibility in manufacturing oxygen? Just because you have problem with Vedanta, you will not manufacture oxygen? What kind of argument is this. We are not interested whether Vedanta or A, B, or C runs it. We are interested in ensuring Oxygen is produced. It is not a question of Vedanta. People are dying. You (state) can produce Oxygen,” the court said as per reports by the Bar and Bench.

The court’s statement was in reply to Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, saying that the reopening of the oxygen plant could be an invitation for law and order and problems since the public is opposed to the same. “There is total lack of confidence there,” he said, adding that 13 persons had lost their lives earlier there. “Yesterday, you did not tell us about the law and order situation. The situation would have been different. Have you filed this on oath?” the bench asked Vaidyanathan, who said he would file an affidavit.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the organisation of affected families, said that state government can take over the unit and produce oxygen. “We have absolutely no problem if the state of Tamil Nadu take over the plant and produce oxygen,” the bench observed, adding, “Why are they not producing oxygen when people need it? The whole point of this exercise is that people in the country need it (oxygen),” the bench said, adding that Tamil Nadu might have surplus oxygen but the issue is about the whole country. “The national assets of the country should be equally distributed among the citizens,” the bench said.

Vedanta’s Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin has remained closed since May 2018 over pollution concerns.

(With inputs from PTI)

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