The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite plant in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu to produce oxygen, as it is a ‘national need’.
The court said that only the Oxygen plant will be allowed to operate and that the order was passed in view of the national need for oxygen and allowed Vedanta to operate its Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin to produce oxygen while specifying that only the Oxygen plant will be operational.
Passing the order, the bench clarified, “allowing Vedanta to operate its Oxygen plant would not create any equity in favour of the company.”
The apex court asked the Tamil Nadu government to form a panel to monitor activities at the Vedanta’s copper unit at Tuticorin, which is closed since May 2018.
“Vedanta shall not be allowed to enter, operate copper smelting plant under the garb of this order. There should be no political bickering over generation of oxygen by Vedanta, it’s a national crisis,” the bench specified.
The apex court heard the Vedanta’s plea which sought opening of its Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin on the ground that it will produce tonnes of oxygen and give it free of cost to treat patients.
Vedanta had sought handing over of the plant for three months saying it requires two months to start the unit and the company should be allowed to run it for four weeks to ascertain whether it’s polluting or not.
In August 2020, Vedanta had moved the Supreme Court challenging the Madras High Court order refusing to allow reopening of the Tuticorin plant. The Madras High court had upheld the orders of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) directing closure of the unit in May 2018.
Vedanta had approached the concerned high court in February 2019, and sought permission to reopen Sterlite plant which was closed following a May 23, 2018 order.
The order was issued by the TNPCB in the backdrop of violent protests against the unit which left 13 people dead in police firing on May 21 and 22.
Earlier on Monday, an all party meeting chaired by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami unanimously decided to allow operation of the oxygen plant at Vedanta’s copper smelter plant or Sterlite Copper in Tuticorin temporarily for four months.
The supply of power to operate the oxygen plant and other related units will be by the state power utility and Vedanta cannot use its own power facilities, the meeting had decided.
The all party meeting was called in the wake of Supreme Court asking the Tamil Nadu government on its views to permit operation of the oxygen plant at the shutdown Vedanta’s copper smelter unit in Tuticorin after a petition was filed by the company in this regard.