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‘It is a national need’, SC rejects TN govt’s plea that Vedanta should supply oxygen only to the state: What SC said

Supreme Court has turned down Tamil Nadu govt's suggestion that before meeting the supply of other States, priority has to be for the manufacturing Oxygen for Tamil Nadu considering the demand of oxygen in the State.

A day after the Tamil Nadu state government allowed the Vedanta Sterlite copper plant to restart its oxygen generation operations for a period of four months, Supreme Court has also given its go-ahead for the same on Tuesday.

Hearing a plea seeking reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu for production of oxygen to be used for the treatment of COVID patients, the apex court bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud Tuesday allowed the limited operationalization of the oxygen unit of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper plant for the production of medical-grade oxygen only.

Sterlite Copper had appealed to the government to allow it to produce oxygen to help the nation in need.

SC turns down State proposal to allow oxygen produced by Vedanta only to be used for TN

However, while agreeing on the reopening of the plant, the Supreme Court turned down the Tamil Nadu government’s suggestion that before meeting the supply of other States, priority has to given for the manufacturing of Oxygen for Tamil Nadu considering the demand for oxygen in the State.

“The oxygen demand of a state cannot be seen in a silo. It is a national need”, said Justice DY Chandrachud rejecting Tamil Nadu’s government’s proposal.

Committee constituted by the State will only be an oversight committee: SC

The Apex Court also observed that the Committee constituted by the State will be an oversight committee and the responsibility of the management of the plant will be with Vedanta.

Earlier, the TN state government had told the Supreme Court that the running and operation of the plant will be strictly monitored by a committee constituted by the State in view of the fact that there is a great trust deficit created by Vedanta due to its past conduct as an environment polluter. The state had said that the committee would be formed under the leadership of the district collector.

The TN Govt had further suggested that the District SP, officials from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, district environmental officer, local representatives, environmental activists, three people from the anti-Sterlite organization would be part of the committee.

The TN government had told the SC that the Committee would supervise the entire functioning of the Oxygen plant and also decide on the operation of the oxygen plant. The Committee will also be empowered to take decisions concerning the operation of these Plants.

“Vedanta shall provide operational manpower and other expertise, as well as bear all expenses related thereto,” it was further submitted.

However, the Apex Court turned down the TN Government’s this proposal also observing that the responsibility of the management of the plant will be with Vedanta and that the committee formed by the state would function merely as an oversight committee.

Further disagreeing with the decision of the inclusion of local people, environmentalists in the oversight committee, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud observed that “the committee can interact with local people and take their views. But we don’t want any ugly situation. Let this be a committee with government accountability”.

Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta assured the court that they would only operate the oxygen plant that too with the electricity provided by the Tamil Nadu govt. Salve assured that Vedanta would not operate the copper plant neither will anybody go to the power plant.

TN govt allows the Vedanta Sterlite Copper to open Thoothukudi plant temporarily

An All-party meeting by Tamil Nadu CM K Palaniswami, convened earlier on April 26, allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin to produce oxygen for four months. The TN Govt’s order, however, added that Vedanta cannot involve the plant in copper production or any other activities.

Supreme Court agrees to hear Vedanta’s plea to reopen the unit for producing oxygen

The decision came after the Supreme Court on April 22, termed the Covid-19 situation in India as a ‘national emergency’ while agreeing to hear Vedanta’s plea to reopen the unit for producing oxygen. The apex court remarked that people are dying due to lack of oxygen and asked the state government why it cannot take over the Sterlite Copper unit for producing oxygen. “We are not interested that Vedanta or A, B or C runs it. We are interested that oxygen should be produced,” a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde had said.

Hinting at the law-and-order issue, the state resisted reopening of the Sterlite Copper plant on April 23. Dismissing the concern, the top court stated that some states are in dire need of oxygen and the resources should be distributed equally.

Vedanta owned Sterlite Copper seeks approvals of TN and central govt to operate its oxygen plants

In order to bridge this demand and supply gap, Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper had offered to restart production at its two oxygen plants in the now shut copper smelter at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu. Vedanta had said that the plant contains two oxygen plants with a combined production capacity of 1,050 tonnes of oxygen daily.

The company has sent two separate letters to the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in this regard.

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OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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