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People Are Dying, Law & Order Not An Excuse For Not Re-Opening The Plant: Supreme Court Asks TN Govt To File Affidavit In Vedanta's Plea To Produce Oxygen

Akshita Saxena
23 April 2021 6:37 AM GMT
People Are Dying, Law & Order Not An Excuse For Not Re-Opening The Plant: Supreme Court Asks TN Govt To File Affidavit In Vedantas Plea To Produce Oxygen
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The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Tamil Nadu Government to clarify its stand whether it is willing to take over sterlite plant of Vedanta Ltd.- which was shut down for violation of environmental laws- to produce medical oxygen during the COVID19 crisis. A Bench led by CJI SA Bobde has asked the State Government to file its affidavit in the matter by Monday. The Bench did...

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The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Tamil Nadu Government to clarify its stand whether it is willing to take over sterlite plant of Vedanta Ltd.- which was shut down for violation of environmental laws- to produce medical oxygen during the COVID19 crisis.

A Bench led by CJI SA Bobde has asked the State Government to file its affidavit in the matter by Monday.

The Bench did not appreciate the opposition expressed by the State Government for re-opening the plant citing law and order situation.

"When people are dying, Tamil Nadu cannot say you cannot open because of law and order issue. It is not about Vedanta or any other company. State Government cannot make such an argument," the CJI remarked.

Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu Government, had opposed Vedanta's plea. He submitted that people have resentment against Vedanta.

"There is total lack of confidence among local people. There was a shooting incident which killed 13 people. There will be law and order issues if Vedanta opens the plant. District administration will find it difficult to handle," he submitted.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for organization of affected families, also submitted that people have a lot of anger against the plant. Gonsalves also referred to the submission made by Tamil Nadu Advocate General before Madras High Court that the state had surplus oxygen. So, there was no need to re-open the pant, he said.

"It is not just about Tamil Nadu. The whole country needs it", CJI replied.



"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?," the Solicitor General on the other hand argued, rooting for reopening of the plant to meet the incumbent shortage of medical Oxygen.

During the hearing, the Tamil Nadu Government also suggested that the Central Government may take over the plant. "Even Central Govt has power to take over the NDMA," Vaidyanathan told the Bench.

However, the CJI pulled up the State for shifting the burden, and asked them to file a reply taking a firm stand.

The Apex Court was hearing a plea filed by Vedanta, saying that it wanted to supply medical oxygen freely to help the country while it is facing acute shortage of medical oxygen.

Seniorr Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta, told the Court that if permission is granted, the company will be able to help in saving lives by supplying free oxygen.

In December last year, the Supreme Court(bench led by Justice RF Nariman) had rejected the interim plea made by the Vedanta for allowing it to re-open the plan. A second application made by the company with the same demand was also rejected by the Supreme Court in January this year.

The company had moved the top court challenging the Madras High Court verdict of August 2020 that dismissed Vedanta's writ petition to reopen its copper smelter and upheld the state government's decision to shut it down.


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