Supreme Court allows Vedanta to produce oxygen at Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu

‘The nation must stand together in this moment,’ says Bench

April 27, 2021 02:02 pm | Updated April 28, 2021 07:44 am IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Sterlite Copper Plant in Thoothukudi. File

A view of the Sterlite Copper Plant in Thoothukudi. File

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Vedanta to operate its oxygen production unit at its Sterlite Copper premises in Thoothukudi as an extraordinary measure to tide over the national shortage of oxygen amid the second wave of COVID-19.

Also read: T.N. parties agree, conditionally, to allow Sterlite plant to operate for medical oxygen production

“The nation must stand together in this moment,” a Special Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud noted.

The top court made it clear that it would not supplant the role of the High Courts in monitoring the crisis. The High Courts had a unique role to play.

“Supreme Court will supplement the work of HCs [High Courts]. The apex court will not remain a mute spectator at the time of a national crisis... We intend to play a complementary role to HCs. HCs have a valuable role to play,” the Special Bench said.

The court said there should be no political bickering over oxygen generation by Vedanta as the country was facing a national crisis.

Also read: Residents oppose plan for oxygen production at Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi

The court said that the Tamil Nadu government had met stakeholders extensively both at the executive and political levels and decided to let Vedanta operate the plant, which would be able to produce up to 200 MT of liquid oxygen within 10 days.

With this, the State overcame its initial objections to the reopening of the Vedanta premises, which were closed in 2018 due to environmental problems.

“We are inclined to allow Vedanta’s prayer to operate the oxygen plant as a standalone unit. The order is passed only in view of the national need for oxygen. The order will not create any equity in favour of Vedanta,” Justice Chandrachud noted.

The Bench asked the Tamil Nadu government to form a committee to monitor Vedanta, which will include the District Collector, Tuticorin; SP Tuticorin; District Environmental Engineer; Sub Collector Tuticorin; and two government officials with knowledge of the affairs.

Also read: CJI pushes to restart Sterlite plant to meet oxygen demand

Vedanta will not be allowed to enter and operate the copper smelting plant under the garb of this order. It is in the nature of an oversight panel. The committee will work in tandem with local community members and address their concerns. The order will hold ground till July 31.

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