Tamil Nadu

CJI pushes to restart Sterlite plant to meet oxygen demand

A file photo of the sterlite plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu.   | Photo Credit: RAJESH N.

Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde on Friday voiced anguish at Tamil Nadu’s objection to re-opening Vedanta’s closed Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi in order to produce medical oxygen, asking the State to “say something concrete as people are dying due to lack of oxygen”.

The three-judge Bench led by the CJI was visibly exasperated when senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, informed the court how the Tamil Nadu Advocate General had made a statement in Madras HC on April 22 that “we are an oxygen surplus State”.

 

An exasperated CJI thundered at the State, saying “people in the country are in need of oxygen, and Tamil Nadu says it has surplus... This is not the way... You can’t say you are in surplus, so you need not produce oxygen. The country is in bad need of oxygen. It should not be that every State produces and uses up its own oxygen”.

“We don’t care if it is you, Vedanta, Centre, A, B, C who runs the plant, but oxygen must be produced from a place capable of producing it... The Constitution demands that material resources should be equally distributed all over the country,” the CJI told Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu counsel, senior advocate C.S. Vaidyanathan, agreed that either the State or the Centre could run the plant to produce medical oxygen. Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan also represented Tamil Nadu.

“The State cannot say we will not run it (plant). What is your problem? Just because you have a problem with Vedanta, you will not use their plant and deprive people of oxygen? What is this,” Chief Justice Bobde asked Tamil Nadu point-blank.

“The country is in dire need of oxygen. Different States need it. For example, Orissa can come to Rajasthan for oxygen. Law and order issues cannot be an excuse. Why should not we use the capacity when every MT of oxygen matters?” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for Centre, agreed.

 

The hearing was based on plea by Vedanta to reopen its plant to produce medical oxygen. The plant was shut by the State in 2018 due to environmental pollution.

The debate began to heat up after Mr. Vaidyanathan raised apprehensions that reopening the plant would create law and order problem.

But the CJI shot back at the State, saying it had not mentioned any law and order problem on April 22 when the court had first heard the proposal to use the plant for producing medical oxygen.

The court listed the case on Monday for further hearing.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 7:38:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/why-cant-tn-govt-take-over-vedantas-unit-to-produce-oxygen-sc/article34391971.ece

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