Vedanta's Sterlite plant gets SC nod to make oxygen

Vedanta's Sterlite Copper plant in Tamil Nadu gets SC nod to manufacture medical oxygen

There cannot be political bickering during a in national crisis, Supreme Court says

Representative image. Credit: iStock

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Vedanta to operate its oxygen production unit on a standalone basis at the Thoothukudi Copper plant, as the corporate giant contended that it wanted to help the national cause amid a massive upsurge in Covid-19 cases.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said the order was passed only in view of the national need for oxygen and it would not create any equity in favour of Vedanta.

Read | TN to allow oxygen plants at Sterlite Copper to function for four months

As counsel from various parties argued with each other, the bench said, "We are in a crisis. There cannot be political bickering in this court. We have to support the nation as a court. It is a national calamity."

A plea by Vedanta against the closure of the copper plant is pending adjudication separately. The company led by senior advocate Harish Salve submitted the oxygen plant can produce up to 200 MT within 10 days with a staff of 250 people.

Tamil Nadu, represented by senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan and Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan said after an all-party meeting a day ago, the government was agreeable to let Vedanta reopen the plant for access to its oxygen production unit, temporarily for four months.  

The court, however, did not agree to the contention by Tamil Nadu that the oxygen produced in the plant should be meant for the use of the State. The Centre said it should be allowed to make the allocation.

"Nation stands together in this moment. At present, Tamil Nadu's oxygen demands are met. In case of any future need, they can approach us for changes," the bench said.

The top court directed the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to form panels as oversight committee and to monitor the plant.

The apex court also said, "Vedanta shall not be allowed to enter and operate the copper smelting plant under the garb of this order. The role of the committee to be nominated by the state government has to be an oversight committee. Before allowing any worker to enter, Vedanta has to submit a list of technical and non-technical staff who are absolutely essential to run the plant with the committee and those names will be approved and will be allowed entry."

The panel will comprise Thoothukudi’s district collector and sub-collector, superintendent of police, district environmental engineer, two government officials with technical knowledge of the subject and two environmental experts who will be nominated by the families aggrieved by pollution from Vedanta’s copper smelter plant.

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