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Home >News >India >Vedanta seeks to run oxygen plant at Tuticorin beyond July, SC hearing next week

The Supreme Court will next week hear the petition by Vedanta, seeking to operate the oxygen plant at Tuticorin beyond 31 the July deadline.

Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta, said that the court had allowed the oxygen plant to run from 27 April till 31 July in view of the oxygen crisis during the second wave of Covid-19.

“We would like to continue operating the plant," he said, adding that an application has been filed for it.

Representing the Tamil Nadu government, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that the state opposes the petition because it now has enough supply of life-saving gas.

He told the bench that he does not have the application filed by Vedanta in the matter.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah asked Salve to serve the copy of the application to Sibal and directed for the listing of the matter next week.

Approval for plant

On 27 April, the top court had allowed Vedanta to operate its closed oxygen plant at Tuticorin, saying the order has been passed in view of “national need" for oxygen and there should be no “political bickering" over the generation of the gas by the company as the country is facing a “national crisis".

The apex court made it clear that Vedanta shall not be allowed to enter and operate its copper smelting plant under the garb of this order and that permission to operate an oxygen plant would not create any equity in the company's favour.

It had directed the state government to form an oversight committee to oversee the functioning of the plant which would include District Collector and Superintendent of Police (SP) of Tuticorin, District Environmental Engineer, Sub-Collector Tuticorin and two government officials.

The court had said the order allowing Vedanta to operate its oxygen plant would be in operation till 31 July after that it will assess the ground situation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 23 April, the top court had said people are dying due to lack of oxygen, and questioned the Tamil Nadu government on why it can't take over Vedanta's Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin, closed since May 2018 over pollution concerns, for producing oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients. 

It was hearing Vedanta's plea seeking opening of its Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin on the ground that it would produce thousand tonnes of oxygen and give it free of cost to treat patients.

Sterlite plant

The apex court on 2 December 2020 had rejected the plea of Vedanta that it be permitted to inspect its Sterlite copper plant and to operate it for a month to assess the pollution level.

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 its polluting or not.

Vedanta, in August last year, moved the apex court challenging the Madras High Court order refusing it to allow the reopening of the Tuticorin plant. 

The 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 high court in February 2019, seeking to reopen the Sterlite plant which was closed following an order of May 2018 issued by the TNPCB in the backdrop of violent protests against the unit which left 13 people dead in police firing on 21 and 22 May.

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